After the disqualification controversy, what's ahead for fencer Olga Kharlan?

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) also announced the suspension of Olga Kharlan's penalty and enabled her to participate in the team sabre event.

Kharlan Olga in a file photo (Image Credits - Instagram/ @olgakharlan)
By Abhiruchi Rout | Aug 1, 2023 | 2 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Prominent Ukrainian fencer, Olga Kharlan, who holds four Olympic medals to her name, has been reassured a position at the 2024 Olympic Games by International Olympic Committee (IOC) President, after an unexpected turn of events at the World Championships. This reinstatement came after Kharlan’s disqualification from the individual sabre event during the championships when she opted not to shake hands with her Russian competitor, Anna Smirnova, whom she had just defeated in the first round. Instead, Kharlan suggested a touch of sabre blades, a practice that had been acceptable during the pandemic in the place of handshakes. However, the obligatory handshake was recently reinstated which led to the incident.

Despite seeking clarification from the FIE President before the event about the potential to substitute a handshake with a blade touch, the miscommunication resulted in Olga Kharlan‘s disqualification. This occurred when Smirnova lodged a protest against Kharlan for demonstrating disrespect. The black card penalty imposed on Kharlan under normal circumstances would mean a suspension for the rest of the event and a subsequent 60-day suspension during the active season. This, in turn, could severely impact a fencer’s prospects for securing enough international qualifying points to participate in the Olympics.

What IOC President Thomas Bach had to say

The period to secure Olympic qualifying points extends from April 3, 2023, to April 1, 2024. However, IOC President Thomas Bach, himself a 1976 Olympic fencing gold medalist, intervened with a letter assuring Kharlan that she would be granted an additional quota place at the Paris Games if Olga Kharlan doesn’t qualify. Bach wrote in her support, “The war against your country, the suffering of the people in Ukraine, the uncertainty around your participation at the Fencing World Championships in Milan, the difficult inner conflicts you and many of your fellow Ukrainian athletes may have and then the events which unfolded yesterday – all this is a roller coaster of emotions and feelings. It is admirable how you are managing this incredibly difficult situation, and I would like to express my full support to you.”

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) also announced the suspension of Olga Kharlan’s penalty and enabled her to participate in the team sabre event, a crucial contest for Ukraine’s hopes to qualify a maximum of three women sabre fencers for Paris. Emmanuel Katsiadakis, FIE’s interim president, asserted in a press release that the decision was in line with the Olympic Spirit and demonstrated sensitivity and understanding towards the global challenges they were facing. Kharlan showed her gratitude towards the Ukrainians and people worldwide who supported her after the disqualification.

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