Ukrainian saber fencer Harlan spoke again about the scandal with Russian Smirnova
MOSCOW, September 18 – Ukrainian saber fencer Olga Kharlan said that she was thinking about retiring from her career because of the scandal after her fight with Russian Anna Smirnova at the World Fencing Championships in Milan.
Previously, Kharlan was disqualified from the World Championships because she did not shake Smirnova’s hand after winning the 1/32 finals. According to the rules of the International Fencing Federation (FIE), the match is considered incomplete without a handshake. Later, the Ukrainian was admitted to the team saber tournament, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC), as an exception, granted her a license to participate in the 2024 Games. As La Repubblica reported, Harlan had the right not to shake Smirnova’s hand, since the protocol for combating coronavirus was in effect at the tournament.
“Our sports ministry only confirmed the day before that we could compete with the Russians. I talked to my family, coach, psychologist – everyone 24 hours before the fight. I didn’t really panic, but I was very nervous. All this pressure and emotions were for me too strong, but I thought I just need to get through it. I saw the referee during my fight, he was as pale as a sheet and almost crying. At that moment I realized what was going to happen. I begged him not to do this (show black card), but knew that it was not his decision. If it had been his, he would have done it right away. With this black card they destroyed everyone: the referee, me, my federation, my country,” added the 33-year-old Olympic champion .
In March 2023, the IOC recommended that international federations allow Russians who did not support the special operation to compete as neutral athletes. At the same time, the organization proposes to deny participation to athletes associated with the armed forces or security agencies, as well as national teams in team disciplines. After this, the FIE decided to return Russian and Belarusian fencers to international competitions from mid-April. In May, the head of the Russian Fencing Federation, Ilgar Mamedov, said that the FIE did not allow a number of leading Russian athletes to compete, including Olympic champions Sofia Pozdnyakova, Sofia Velikaya and Yana Yegoryan.