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IOC urges international sporting federations to show 'sensitivity' after Ukrainian fencer disqualified

by The Kyiv Independent news desk July 28, 2023 9:12 AM 2 min read
Ukraine's Olha Kharlan (L) refuses to shake hands with Russia's Anna Smirnova, registered as an Individual Neutral Athlete (AIN), after she defeated her during the Sabre Women's Senior Individual qualifiers, as part of the FIE Fencing World Championships in Milan, on July 27, 2023. (Andreas Solaro/AFP via Getty Images)
This audio is created with AI assistance

The International Olympic Committee has urged international sporting governing bodies to treat contests between Ukrainians and neutral athletes (implying Russian athletes) "with the necessary degree of sensitivity" after Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was disqualified from the FIE Fencing World Championship in Milan on July 27.

The IOC's statement was shared by AFP on the evening of Kharlan's exclusion after her round of 64 victory against Russian opponent Anna Smirnova, where Kharlan refused to shake Smirnova's hand, instead appearing to offer to touch sabers instead.

In response, Smirnova remained on the playing surface for over half an hour, complaining that Kharlan should be disqualified. Soon after, Kharlan's next scheduled opponent, Bulgarian fencer Yoana Ilieva, was shown on the FIE website to have passed straight to the next round without facing Kharlan.

Kharlan's disqualification was condemned by the Ukrainian sports and foreign ministers, as well as the president of the Ukrainin fencing federation Mykhailo Illiashev, who announced that Ukraine would launch an official protest against the decision.

Later, Kharlan herself also called for the FIE to change the rules given the

"I did not want to shake hands with this athlete, and I acted with my heart," she said. "So when I heard that they wanted to disqualify me it killed me so much that I was screaming in pain."

"We understood that the country that is terrorizing our country, our people, our family, is also terrorizing sport," she added.

Ukrainian fencer disqualified after refusing to shake hands with Russian opponent
The Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan has been disqualified from the World Fencing Championship after refusing to shake hands with her Russian opponent on July 27. Kharlan won the match in Milan against Russian fencer Anna Smirnova, who was competing under a neutral flag.
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