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Ukraine’s top fencer awarded a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics

Screenshot from the game. Olga Kharlan gestures towards Russia’s Anna Smirnova.
Ukraine’s top fencer awarded a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics

Ukrainian fencer Olha Kharlan was awarded a place in the 2024 Paris Olympics by the International Olympic Committee after she was disqualified from the World Championships in Milan for refusing to shake the hand of her defeated Russian opponent Anna Smirnova.

The IOC president, Thomas Bach, a former Olympic champion fencer, wrote in person to Olha Kharlan to make a “unique exception” to Olympic qualifying procedures in an emotional letter.

“As a fellow fencer, it is impossible for me to imagine how you feel at this moment. The war against your country, the suffering of the people in Ukraine, the uncertainty around your participation at the Fencing World Championships in Milan, the difficult inner conflicts you and many of your Ukrainian athletes may have, and then the events which unfolded yesterday — all this is a roller coaster of emotions and feelings. It is admirable how you are managing this incredibly difficult situation, and I would like to express my full support for you,” Bach said.

“Given your unique situation, the International Olympic Committee will allocate an additional quota place to you for the Olympic Games Paris 2024, in case you will not be able to qualify in the remaining period,” Bach wrote.

“We make this unique exception also because the ongoing procedures will in no case make up for the qualification points you missed because of your disqualification.”

Later, The International Fencing Federation (FIE) also said it was reinstating Kharlan, allowing her to take part in the team competition in Milan “after consultation with the International Olympic Committee,” according to France 24.

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