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Fencing federation reinstates distanced greetings following Kharlan uproar

The International Fencing Federation decided fencers can resume distanced greetings instead of shaking hands, after an incident pitting Ukrainian Olga Kharlan against a Russian foe created an uproar.
Kharlan Ukrainian fencer
Fencers Olga Kharlan and Anna Smirnova after the duel at the World Fencing Championship in Milan on 27 July 2023. Photo from Dmytro Kuleba’s Twitter
Fencing federation reinstates distanced greetings following Kharlan uproar

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has voted to again allow socially distanced greetings instead of handshakes following an incident between Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan and Russian fencer Anna Smirnova at the World Championships in Milan.

According to Italian outlet La Repubblica, the FIE decided that handshakes after bouts can once more be replaced by greetings from a distance, enabling Ukrainians to avoid contacting Russians even if they compete as neutrals.

Additionally, Kharlan’s suspension for refusing to shake Smirnova’s hand has been lifted, clearing her to participate in further team events at the world championships.

This came after International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach sent a letter to Kharlan and the FIE giving her an automatic qualifier for the 2024 Olympics, despite the FIE’s disqualification.

The controversy arose when Kharlan declined to shake hands with Smirnova, instead offering a saber salute. The FIE had recently mandated handshakes despite allowing remote greetings during COVID.

Ukrainian fencer disqualified for refusing to shake hands with her defeated Russian rival

Kharlan’s stance opposing forced respect sparked outrage in Ukraine. But the FIE’s reversal paves the way for her continued competition in Milan and at the next Olympics.

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


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