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Ukrainian fencer disqualified after refusing to shake hands with Russian opponent

Olha Kharlan was disqualified from World Fencing Championships after refusing to shake hands with her Russian opponent.

Ukrainian fencer disqualified after refusing to shake hands with Russian opponent

Four-time Olympic medalist Olha Kharlan of Ukraine refused to shake hands with Russian Fencer Anna Smirnova.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 28 July 2023 10:56 AM GMT

Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was disqualified after she refused to shake hands with Russian Anna Smirnova at the World Fencing Championships in Milan on Thursday.

A four-time Olympic medalist and world champion, Kharlan won the individual sabre bout 15-7 and then refused to shake hands with her opponent.

Smirnova remained in the venue for over half an hour after the incident, speaking with a number of officials before leaving.

Ukrainian athletes in other sports - including tennis players Elina Svitolina and Marta Kostyuk - have also refused to shake hands with Russian and Belarusian opponents following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow using Belarus as a staging ground for what it calls a "special military operation".

In fencing's rules, shaking an opponent's hand is mandatory, and failure to do so results in a 'black card'.

"We fully support Olga Kharlan in this situation. We are preparing a protest," Mykhailo Illiashev, president of Ukraine's fencing federation (NFFU), said on TV.

"We will appeal this decision because the referee who judged this match did not give directly a black card or disqualify her. It was only later that the underhanded games began and this disqualification appeared already after the next opponent was determined, already after a judge for the next competition was determined," he added further.

Illiashev said the NFFU anticipates the appeal to be considered within the next few days.

Kharlan is representing Ukraine at the competition after the country's sports ministry on Wednesday relaxed its rules over national sports teams competing in Olympic, non-Olympic and Paralympic events that have competitors from Russia and Belarus.

Smirnova was competing as a neutral.

The International Olympic Committee urged sports federations to show sensitivity when handling contests between Ukrainian athletes and Russians competing as neutrals, following Thursday's Fencing World Championships disqualification of Olha Kharlan.

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