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Is Olga Harlan's disqualification fair: everything you need to know about the scandalous decision of the FIE

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Is Olga Harlan's disqualification fair: everything you need to know about the scandalous decision of the FIE

After her victory, the Ukrainian fencer refused to shake hands with the russian, who was competing under a neutral flag. Find out why Smirnov's competitor played a dirty game with provocations and how the world reacted to Harlan's unfair disqualification

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Ukrainian fencer Olha Harlan defeated russian Anna Smirnova at the World Championships, but refused to shake hands with her opponent, instead holding out her saber. 

According to the rules, a fight is considered over when athletes shake hands, but due to covid restrictions, a new rule was introduced - competitors could touch sabers instead of shaking hands. However, Smirnova refused to end the fight in this way, and after sitting on a chair for more than 50 minutes, she demanded that Olga Harlan be disqualified for "disrespect."


Why was Harlan's disqualification outside the rules?


The first and foremost reason is that Ukraine had warned the competition organizers that Ukrainian athletes would not shake hands with russians, and thus Smirnova's protest should have been rejected. 

In addition, after the fight, the referee did not raise the black card, and a little later, Olga Harlan's next opponent, Yoana Ilieva from Bulgaria, was determined, and thus the disqualification did not occur. However, soon after, a red EXC mark appeared on the scoreboard opposite Harlan's name, and the victory in the 1/16 finals match was automatically awarded to the Bulgarian athlete.

According to the head coach of the Ukrainian national fencing team Natalia Konrad:

"Olga didn't shake hands, offered the weapon to the 'neutral' girl, but she didn't want it, stayed on the track, and they started writing a protest to the FIE. Even though the judge recorded Olha's victory, it was not shown on the scoreboard. Then some time passed, we were called and told that there were two ways to resolve the issue: either you shake hands or you will be disqualified. Of course, we tried to explain that this was a non-standard situation and that there should be other ways to resolve it."

It also became known that on the eve of the competition, namely on July 26, the FIE convened an emergency meeting and canceled the rule that allowed opponents to touch weapons without shaking hands, but no one was informed about it. Moreover, the panel of judges expected provocations and discrimination from the russians, and so the judges were instructed to be more loyal and not to demand handshakes. However, Harlan still received an ultimatum.

The "black card" given to the Ukrainian fencer not only means disqualification, but also a 60-day suspension from other competitions. This means that Olha risks missing the fencing tournament at the 2023 World Championships, where neither russians nor Belarusians are represented.

Ukraine has now filed an appeal against the disqualification decision and is awaiting a review of the scandalous "punishment."




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How did Ukrainian society react to Harlan's disqualification?


Ukrainians were outraged by Olga Harlan's disqualification and the injustice of the championship organizers. Ukrainian society unanimously agreed that the behavior of competitor Smirnova embodies the very essence of the russian federation.

"Anna Smirnova lost a fair competition and decided to play dirty with a handshake. This is exactly what the russian army does on the battlefield. Olga Harlan won a fair competition and proved herself worthy. I call on the International Fencing Federation to restore Harlan's rights and allow her to compete," said Dmytro Kuleba, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine.


On the evening of July 27, Olga Harlan spoke publicly for the first time in a video message about the situation at the championships. The athlete expressed her gratitude to everyone who supported her and emphasized that, first and foremost, she acted as her heart told her.

"You know, you can never force anyone to peace. Especially Ukrainians. Never. No handshakes. Never. So it will always be like this. And I, perhaps, like everyone else in this world, an adequate world, understand that the rules have to change. Because the world is changing. But what I feel from all of you is beyond words. I thank everyone, I feel everything. You are in my heart. Glory to Ukraine," Harlan said.


We thank Olga Harlan for her resilience, determination and inner strength! She behaved with dignity and courage, and every Ukrainian is sincerely grateful to her for that! And the russian world has once again shown its true face by taking an insidious step to disqualify a Ukrainian athlete who won a fair fight.


We remind you! Women gained the right to participate in the Olympic Games only 115 years ago. Read more about modern Ukrainian female athletes who compete for medals for Ukraine on an equal footing with men here.




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