This is a new episode in the long process of reintegrating Russian and Belarusian fencers into competition. While their return was recorded in March but still has not taken place, a letter of May 15 addressed to the members of the Comex of the European Fencing Confederation (EFC), written by the president of the body Giorgio Scarso, made it known that during the Championships of Europe (from 25 to 30 June in Poland within the framework of the European Games), only the results of the team competitions will be taken into account in the Olympic qualification system. The individual event is well maintained but a new competition, in October in a place to be determined, will be organized to put into play the points counting for the qualification for the 2024 Olympics.
“The FIE Comex met on May 15 to discuss the European Championships and, unanimously, the team competition was deemed valid for Olympic qualification.explains Scarso. However, after a long debate and with three votes against, the individual event was not recognized as valid for Olympic qualification. The decision came after an in-depth debate during which I tried by all means to have the possibility of postponing this decision after the holding of the European Games be considered, in order to give greater value to this competition, and to seize the opportunity of developments that could arise from the next decisions of the IOC. »
A stalled reintegration
Taken on March 10, the decision to reinstate the Russian and Belarusian shooters was to be effective from April and the start of Olympic qualification. But right now, it’s stalled. Several organizers have canceled their World Cup stages, like the French federation for the Challenge Monaland the events held did not welcome Russian and Belarusian shooters.
This reinstatement decision had been very controversial, more than 300 shooters from all over the world signing a petition to challenge this choice of international bodies. In a long interview with L’Équipe, Ukrainian saber fencer Olga Kharlan, four-time world champion, had confided that she would boycott all competitions where Russian and Belarusian fencers would be present, even if it meant compromising her Olympic qualification. On her Instagram account on Friday evening, the 7th world saber did not fail to react strongly to this new decision.
“Apparently the return of Russians and Belarusians is not only possible, it is even a priority!protested Kharlan. I have been fencing for 23 years and this is my fifth Olympic qualification, and the qualification criteria have never been changed for any reason, only for one country. This decision has never been made before and it is a complete disrespect for the athletes. If all continental competitions are frozen, no athlete will have the opportunity to gain or lose points before the World Championships (July 22 to 30 in Milan). It’s a huge advantage for those who could get out of the top 16 and a huge disadvantage for those who could have made it. Needless to say how unfair it would be if only European athletes weren’t given the opportunity to take points before the World Championships. »
“Priority for some and neglect for others”
“Finally, all athletes and coaches know that preparing for an Olympic event begins long before, she continues. Changing the program of a competition means changing the whole program, and only for European athletes. It’s unfair to athletes, coaches and physical preparation. Vacations and rest will be changed, and every Olympic athlete knows how important it is to rest and recharge their batteries. This is basically the message: priority for some and negligence for others. »