IOC Refugee Athlete Javad Mahjoub stands tall at Tokyo 2020

Judoka Javad Mahjoub stepped out on the mat at the Nippon Budokan in Tokyo, an incredible moment in an incredible journey. 

Picture by 2021 Getty Images

"Judo is beautiful," is the simple philosophy of IOC Refugee Athlete Javad Mahjoub.

He fled Iran for Canada and was chosen as one of six judoka selected on the 29-strong IOC Refugee Athlete Team to take part at the Tokyo Games.

When he stepped out on sacred judo ground at the Nippon Budokan on Friday it was an opportunity for a fresh start, and he grabbed it with both hands.

Mahjoub faced Germany's Johannes Frey in his +100kg category opener and never really looked in trouble, showing strong defence and doing more to try and win the fight.

A tense affair with neither fighter wanting to give up opportunities, a shido each for non-combativity were followed by another penalty for a false attack by the German.

Finally it was Mahjoub who had the decisive attack in him, executing a sumi-otoshi throw for waza-ari with the clock at 3:58.

His next battle could hardly have been any tougher: Rio 2016 -100kg gold medallist Lukas Krpalek from the Czech Republic who stepped up a weight class.

It was another tense fight with Krpalek struggling to find a way to attack Mahjoub, the Czech fighter punished with a shido for a defensive posture after a minute and five seconds.

But Krpalek eventually found a way, first scoring with a waza-ari for a sumi-otoshi throw, then finished it off by pinning Mahjoub in a yoko-shiho-gatame, the refugee athlete tapping out and conceding the ippon.

Javad Mahmoud's journey to the Tokyo Games

Mahmoud took up judo in 2007 in Chenaran, Iran, influenced and encouraged by his friend and Iranian judoka Ali Malootmat.

He was also inspired by legendary Japanese judoka Kosei Inoue, and proved himself a talented judoka.

His biggest moment came when won gold in the -100kg category at the 2013 Asian Championships in Bangkok, Thailand, also winning the Moscow Grand Slam in in 2013.

The medals kept coming with victory in 2016 at the European Open in Oberwart and bronze at the Grand Prix in Düsseldorf, silver at the Grand Prix in Tbilisi in 2016.

Then there was bronze at the Grand Prix The Hague in 2017, silver at the Grand Prix in Tunis in 2018, a winners' medal at the European Open in Prague in 2018.

Mahjoub has bagged 14 World Cup medals in all and a lifetime commitment to judo was in evidence when he missed the birth of his first child in 2018 while he was at a grand prix event in Antalya, Turkey.

"I knew that this may happen while I was away and I was prepared for it as my career is what lets me provide things for my family," he said, according to

"Judo is my love and my family is my life."

After a brave effort at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Mahjoub can hold his head high after he did himself, his family, and refugees everywhere proud.