Ukrainian Fencer Who Refused To Shake Russian Opponent’s Hand, Reinstated In World Championships

Ukrainian Fencer Who Refused To Shake Russian Opponent’s Hand, Reinstated In World Championships

Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan smiles during a press conference at the Fencing World Championships in Milan, Italy, Friday, July 28, 2023. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)

Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was awarded a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics by the IOC on Friday, July 28, after she was disqualified at the world championships for refusing to shake the hand of her Russian opponent.

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) also said it was reinstating Kharlan, allowing her to take part in the team competition at the world championships in Milan.

The Greek president of the FIE, Emmanuel Katsiadakis, said the decision had been taken “after consultation with the International Olympic Committee”.

Kharlan, the first fencer to face a Russian or Belarusian since the former’s invasion of Ukraine, won 15-7 against Russia’s Anna Smirnova on Thursday.

The 32-year-old four-time Olympic medallist refused Smirnova’s handshake afterward, instead offering her saber to tap blades, but FIE rules state that the two fencers must shake hands.

Smirnova staged a 45-minute protest and refused to leave the competition strip.

Russia’s Anna Smirnova remains seated after her bout with Ukraine’s Olga Kharlan in the women’s individual sabre best of 64 round match at the World Fencing Championship in Milan, Italy, Thursday, July 27, 2023. Olympic champion Kharlan competed against officially-neutral Russian opponent Smirnova at the world fencing championships, an Olympic qualifier, on Thursday in Milan, Italy, winning their bout 15-7. However, Smirnova refused to leave after the bout in an apparent protest because Kharlan refused to shake hands at the end. (Tibor Illye/MTI via AP)

Kharlan was disqualified, claiming afterward that the Greek President had assured her that it was “possible” not to shake hands but offer a touch of her blade instead following her victory.

“I thought I had his word, to be safe, but apparently, no,” Kharlan said.

In response to her disqualification, the International Olympic Committee called for Ukrainian athletes to be treated “sensitively”.

Then on Friday, IOC President Thomas Bach, a former Olympic fencer himself, sent Kharlan a letter saying she would be guaranteed a place at next year’s Olympics in Paris regardless of whether she gained the qualification points.

“As a fellow fencer, it is impossible for me to imagine how you feel at this moment,” Bach wrote.

“Given your unique situation, the International Olympic Committee will allocate an additional quota place to you for the Olympic Games Paris 2024 in case you will not be able to qualify in the remaining period.” Bach added: “Rest assured that the IOC will continue to stand in full solidarity with the Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community of Ukraine during these extremely difficult times.”

Source: Le Monde

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