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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Ukrainian Fencer Extended Olympics Invitation for Upholding Refusal to Shake Russian’s Hand

On July 28, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) took significant action in response to the incident involving Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan at the World Fencing Championships. Kharlan had been disqualified by the International Fencing Federation (FIE) for refusing to shake hands with her Russian opponent, Anna Smirnova, who was competing as a neutral athlete.

Following the disqualification, the Ukrainian Minister of Youth and Sports, Vadym Gutzeit, announced that the IOC awarded Olha Kharlan a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics as a show of support. IOC President Thomas Bach personally addressed Kharlan in a letter expressing understanding of her unique situation and offering an additional place at the upcoming Olympics if she failed to qualify through the regular process.

The IOC’s decision was accompanied by a statement emphasizing the organization’s full solidarity with Ukrainian athletes and the Olympic community in Ukraine, given their challenging circumstances.

Subsequently, the Fencing Federation of Ukraine (NFFU) appealed the decision to disqualify Kharlan at the World Championships in Milan, Italy. On the same day, July 28, the FIE reinstated Kharlan, allowing her to participate in the team competition.

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Ukrainian officials are actively working to address the issue and ensure that this incident does not negatively affect Kharlan’s future competitions. They aim to prevent similar situations from occurring in other sports as well.

Considering the ongoing complexities between the two countries, it’s important to note that the IOC had previously urged international federations to handle such situations involving Ukrainian and neutral Russian athletes with sensitivity.

The incident caused tensions and emotions to run high. Smirnova was reportedly furious over the handshake refusal and her subsequent defeat, leading to a delay in her leaving the arena for more than 30 minutes.

In summary, the IOC’s decision to award Olha Kharlan a place in the Paris Olympics and the FIE’s reinstatement of her at the World Championships demonstrate a commitment to addressing sensitive issues and supporting athletes during challenging times.

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