Ukrainian Kharlan readmitted after failing to say goodbye to Russian Smirnova at the World Fencing Championships


By John

Here comes the about-face of the international fencing federation on the sanction for the Ukrainian saber Olga Kharlan, that yesterday you Fencing World Championships in Milan ehad been disqualified for failing to salute the Russian (but competing as a neutral athlete) Anna Smirnova at the end of the match in the individual tournament. After another day of rumors and indiscretions that chased each other through the MiCo pavilions in Milan but also of strong pressure at a political-sporting level (from the Italian sports minister Abodi to the Cio), in the evening the Fie officially confirmed that the Kharlan will be able to participate from tomorrow in the women’s team competition together with her companions.

«The Bureau has decided to allow Olga Kharlan to participate in the team saber competition» was explained at the press conference. “An extraordinary decision came following an incident involving Kharlan, who admitted – the FIE then notes in a note – that the sanction was correct after refusing to shake hands with a neutral opponent”. «I thank the Fie Committee for this decision. The most important thing for athletes is to be able to compete. In my case it’s really important for my family, for my team and for my country. In these difficult days I have found the strength to compete», commented Kharlan at the press conference.

Furthermore, confirming that he will be able to participate in the individual tournament at the 2024 Olympics thanks to the green light, sent by letter, from the president of the IOC, Thomas Bach. “I cried, I couldn’t believe it, I cried a lot. I was with my team, I read it to my family. It’s something incredible, I’m really grateful for this opportunity». The disqualification, however, is only temporarily suspended: in fact, it has not been completely cancelled. In the meantime, however, from tomorrow it will also be possible not to shake hands at the end of the meetings, with the modification of the regulation and the possibility of even offering the weapon.

“Is it a good thing you don’t have to shake hands anymore? War is not good, what happens afterwards are the consequences, I think it’s better not to shake hands while the war goes on, being on the platform is already a gesture of respect», Kharlan’s words at the press conference.

“We thoroughly discussed this issue and the decision and met the athlete – explained the interim president of the FIE, Emmanuel Katsiadakis -. Furthermore, and having consulted the IOC, we believe that this decision has been taken in line with the Olympic spirit. It also sends a message of sensitivity and understanding to our members and to all sports federations as the world faces enormous challenges.”

However, the uproar raised by the international case has not overshadowed the successes of Italian fencing, which today celebrated its eighth medal – silver in women’s team épée – which allows the Italians to equal the tally of the 2022 World Cup in Cairo. Rossella Fiamingo, Alberta Santuccio, Mara Navarria and Federica Isola made it all the way to the final for the gold medal, where however Poland won 32-28. «There is disappointment, after years of bronzes and silvers we wanted to win this gold, it hasn’t arrived. It means that we have to work even harder», commented Fiamingo after the match. The men’s epee team is also aiming for a medal. Di Veroli, Vismara, Santarelli and Cimini are in the quarterfinals and tomorrow they will face the Czech Republic.