Israel's Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev, centre, was among those present at the Grand Slam ©IJF

The International Judo Federation (IJF) have hailed Israel's participation under their own flag at the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam as a "watershed moment".

Hosts United Arab Emirates do not recognise or have diplomatic ties with Israel, which has previously led to athletes not being able to compete under their own flag or hear their national anthem.

This caused controversy at last year's event when organisers refused to raise the Israeli flag or play their national anthem when Tal Flicker won men's under-66 kilograms gold.

The IJF announced earlier this year that the Grand Slam and the Tunis Grand Prix would both be suspended, with athletes from the country having also been barred from entering Tunisia to compete at major sporting events in the past.

The governing body made the decision due to the treatment of Israeli athletes.

The IJF said the Governments of the UAE and Tunisia needed to provide "written guarantees" that Israel would be allowed to compete free of discrimination.

An official letter was received from the UAE, leading to the Abu Dhabi Grand Slam being restored.

Israel's Sports and Culture Minister Miri Regev was among those in attendance at the Mubadala Arena today, with the official photographed alongside IJF President Marius Vizer and UAE Judo and Wrestling Federation President Mohamed Bin Tha'loob Al Derai.

The IJF claimed it was a "landmark achievement for the competition and judo", highlighting the event coming on the eve of World Judo Day, which this year carries the theme of "Friendship".

Spectators would witness three bronze medals for Israel during the day, but it was Kosovo who saw their judokas appear most frequently in the gold medal bouts.

Kosovo's Nora Gjakova was among the gold medallists on the first day of competition ©IJF
Kosovo's Nora Gjakova was among the gold medallists on the first day of competition ©IJF

Olympic champion Majlinda Kelmendi made her long awaited return after a year-long absence with injury.

She showed strong form in the women's under-52 kilogram event to reach the final, where she would meet Odette Giuffrida.

The Italian had lost to the Kosovo star in the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medal bout but took victory in Abu Dhabi after Kelmendi was forced to withdraw due to a laceration on her nose following a clash of heads in an earlier bout.

Israel's Gili Cohen and Britain's Chelsie Giles completed the podium in the division.

Kelmendi's team-mate Distria Krasniqi had been forced to settle for second place earlier in the day.

She suffered defeat in the women's under-48kg final to Mongolia's Urantsetseg, while Olympic champion Paula Pareto of Argentina and China's Li Yanan secured bronze medals.

Kosovo's gold medal duck came to an end in the women's 57kg event, as Nora Gjakova emerged as the winner.

Gjakova overcame Russia's Anastasiia Konkina in the gold medal bout.

France's Priscilla Gneto and Israel's Timna Nelson Levy completed the podium in the final women's event of the day.

Georgia were the big winners of the opening day in the men's competitions as Amiran Papinashvili and Vazha Margvelashvili secured the two titles on offer.

Papinashvili was the winner of the men's under 60kg event, with the Georgian beating Spain's Francisco Garrigos in the final.

Kazakhstan's Gusman Kyrgyzbayev and Uzbekistan's Sharafuddin Lutfillaev clinched bronze medals.

Margvelashvili triumphed in the men's under-66kg event to complete a Georgian double.

He beat Kazakhstan's Yerlan Serikzhanov in the gold medal bout as Belarus' Dzmitry Shershan and Israel's Baruch Shmailov won bronze.

Watch the action on Judo TV.