Ukrainian saber fencer Olha Kharlan will be able to continue сompeting at the World Fencing Championships as the International Fencing Federation (FIE) has reversed a recent decision on her disqualification, according to a report by the Italian publication La Repubblica.
Kharlan was disqualified after she refused to shake hands with her opponent, Russian Anna Smirnova. At the end of the bout, which Kharlan won 15:7, she extended her saber, suggesting that Smirnova touch blades instead of shaking hands. Smirnova was participating under a neutral flag, as required for Russian and Belarusian athletes at the tournament.
Following the disqualification incident, Ukrainian media highlighted that Smirnova was pictured with her brother, a serviceman dressed in Russian military uniform, on his Instagram account.
The FIE clarified the reason for reversing Kharlan's disqualification, stating that she had the right not to shake Anna Smirnova's hand due to the coronavirus protocol in place at the event.
Ukraine's Youth and Sport Minister, Vadym Gutzeit, also announced that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has qualified Kharlan for the 2024 Olympics in Paris. Even if the saber fencer does not score the required points at the world championships due to the disqualification, she will still be allowed to compete in the upcoming Summer Olympic Games.
Gutzeit also mentioned that the Ukrainian side had informed the FIE beforehand that their athletes would not shake hands with Russian competitors, even if they were participating under a neutral flag.