IOC GUARANTEES UKRA FENCER TO PARTICIPATE IN PARIS OLYMPICS
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has promised to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics for Ukrainian player Olha Harlan, who was disqualified after refusing to shake hands with a Russian player at the fencing world championships.
“Considering your special circumstances, we will allocate additional quotas if you do not qualify for the Paris Olympics for the rest of the year,” the IOC said in a letter under the name of Chairman Thomas Bach on the 28th (local time).
Harlan beat Russian player Anna Smyrnova 15-7 in the women’s sabre individual round of 64 at the 2023 World Championships in Milan, Italy, the previous day, but later was disqualified for not shaking hands with Smyrnova.
International Fencing Federation (FIE) regulations stipulate that the two players should shake hands when the results of the match come out, but Harlan refused to shake hands with Smyrnova, a Russian who is at war with his country. After Harlan left first, Smyrnova sat with a chair on the piste and stayed at the stadium for about 50 minutes to express his protest, and Harlan was disqualified.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February last year, athletes from Russia and Belarus have been banned from participating in various international sports competitions, but the IOC has cleared the way for athletes from these countries to compete in the Paris Olympics this year.
Various restrictions have been imposed, including blocking the participation of players from teams belonging to the Russian and Belarus military or contracted with the military and preventing them from participating in team matches at all.
Except for women’s professional tennis, the first time that players from these countries faced off on the international stage was the match between Harlan and Smyrnova, which sparked controversy when a Ukrainian player was disqualified for refusing to shake hands.
Qualifications for Olympic fencing are distributed based on world rankings, and in particular, the world championships are given the most ranking points. The IOC first expressed its intention to invite Harlan in case he fails to qualify for the Olympics in the aftermath of his disqualification from the tournament.
In the letter, the IOC said, “We will continue to maintain full solidarity with Ukrainian athletes and Ukraine’s Olympic community at this extremely difficult time.” “The most important thing for an athlete is to be able to compete for his family, team, country, and everyone who supports me,” Harlan told Reuters in an interview. “I appreciate all the support I received from all over the world during the difficult days.” “We can’t shake hands (with a Russian player) during this war,” he said, urging the FIE to change the rules again. We must respect ourselves,” he stressed.
Harlan is a Ukrainian fencing hero who won four individual world championships and helped her win the women’s sabre team event at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Bach, who leads the IOC, is also a former German fencing player and won gold medals in the men’s foil team event at the 1976 Montreal Olympics and the men’s foil team event at the 1977 World Championships. Meanwhile, the FIE allowed Harlan to participate in the team event at the World Championships on the 29th and 30th