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'Shame to be in this system': Kharlan and the sports world's reaction to the disqualification of disgrace

'Shame to be in this system': Kharlan and the sports world's reaction to the disqualification of disgrace Olga Kharlan told the world about the position of Ukrainian athletes (Photo:

Ukrainian fencing champion Olga Kharlan, bearing the title, refused to shake hands with the "neutral" Russian athlete and was disqualified by the organizing committee of the World Championship 2023.
The reactions from Ukrainian and European athletes and other media figures please find in the compilation below.

At the start of the global championship, Olga Kharlan confidently defeated the Russian fencer Smirnova (15:7). However, after the match, she declined to participate in the traditional handshaking ritual. Instead, she communicated with her opponent and left the piste.

However, the "neutral" athlete remained and demanded Kharlan's disqualification. The judges rejected the protest from the Russian fencer, allowing the experienced Ukrainian to advance to the next round. Nevertheless, her match against the Bulgarian fencer Ilieva did not take place. The competition organizers disqualified Kharlan for showing disrespect towards her opponent from Russia.

On the evening of July 27th, Kharlan recorded a video expressing gratitude to all those who supported her throughout the strenuous day. She stated that from terrorizing Ukraine and Ukrainians, the aggressor country has moved on to terrorizing sports.

"I didn't want to shake hands with this athlete and followed my heart. So when I heard that they wanted to remove me from the competition, disqualify me, and give me a black card, it devastated me. It devastated me to the point where I cried out in pain," confessed Kharlan.

According to the renowned fencer, she regained her strength after receiving immense support from her fellow citizens. Above all, she was inspired by defenders on the frontline, who called Kharlan's gesture motivational. "We can never force anyone into peace, especially Ukrainians. Never. Not with any handshake," she added.

Throughout the day after the 2023 World Fencing Championships scandal, stars from various sports expressed their support for the fencer. Olympic medalists, world champions, and European champions – all of them rallied behind Kharlan and Ukraine. Ukrainian tennis players were among the first to show their support.

"I believe this is a true disrespect from the Fencing Federation. Also, why do the Russians provoke? Why don't they respect our position as Ukrainians? As you know, we have a strong stance," said Ukraine's top-ranked tennis player Elina Svitolina angrily on "Voice of America."

Another tennis star, Lesia Tsurenko, joined her. The experienced Ukrainian tennis player experienced a panic attack before a match with Belarusian Sabalenka in the spring. At that time, WTA President Simon told Tsurenko that she "should not be upset" about the support from Russian players during the tournament.

"I stand with Olga Kharlan. Please respect our decision. There is a clear reason why we don't shake hands with representatives of aggressor countries, and it doesn't require an explanation. Glory to Ukraine!" wrote the tennis player on her personal Instagram.

Olympic champion from Atlanta and former world champion in various versions, Volodymyr Klitschko, reacted to the disgraceful disqualification of Kharlan. The legendary boxer accused the International Fencing Federation of stealing a deserved victory from the Ukrainian. He also criticized the Russian provocateur.

"Olga preserved her honor. She refused to shake the bloodied hand of the fake "neutral" athlete who proudly poses here with her brother," wrote the younger Klitschko on his personal Twitter, along with a photo of Smirnova with her military brother.

Jean Beleniuk exposed the deceit and cunning of the International Fencing Federation. The Olympic champion in Tokyo and a member of parliament are convinced that the officials deliberately provoked the scandal. They knew that Kharlan wouldn't shake hands with the Russian athlete.

"The most cynical thing in this story is, according to my information, there was an agreement between Olga and the leadership of the international federation, where it was agreed not to shake hands after the match..." wrote the wrestler in his Telegram channel.

Even the usually indifferent and silent International Olympic Committee showed some semblance of support for Ukrainian athletes. The leader of the Olympic movement called on sports federations to be sensitive to the feelings of Ukrainians. A bit too late, isn't it?

"We call on international federations to approach the resolution of situations involving Ukrainian and neutral athletes with the necessary level of sensitivity. We continue to support Ukrainian athletes fully," AFP quoted the IOC's reaction.

Olympic champion of 1996, Lilia Podkopayeva, also supported her younger colleague. At the same time, it seems that she also formulated a new formula for Ukrainian athletes. During the war, there has been a reassessment of values for all Ukrainians.

"I am proud of Olga Kharlan. The reward is not worth losing dignity," the legendary gymnast succinctly analyzed the situation on her personal Instagram.

Unfortunately, the story of resistance against Kharlan's disqualification remains primarily local. Foreign athletes are currently silent. Even the International Fencing Federation has not officially defined its position yet. It isn't very pleasant for Luigi Samele, the two-time Olympic fencing medalist and dear person to me.

"Today, for the first time, I am ashamed to be part of this system! A system where arrogance triumphs over honesty. A system where those who can help you just await your failure. I felt it today not on my skin but on the skin of someone dear to me," the Italian wrote on his Instagram.

In reality, the International Fencing Federation was prepared for possible misunderstandings in clashes between Ukrainian and Russian athletes at the World Championships in Milan. Officials secretly changed the rules to prevent Ukrainian representatives from expressing their stance. It was just a day before Kharlan's match against the Russians.

By the way, Ukraine had previously challenged Kharlan's disqualification regarding participation in the team championship.