March 13, 2023

En Garde, Russia and Belarus


En Garde, Russia and Belarus
Fencer Irina Okhotnikova representing Russia in a match against Hungary. RUSSIAN FENCING FEDERATION, Instagram

The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has become the first sports federation to allow Russian and Belarussian athletes to compete once again in their tournaments, including their upcoming world championship in Milan. This decision is likely to allow players from both countries to compete for spots at the Olympics.  

Russia has long been a major contender in the sport, winning eight medals with three gold at the Tokyo 2021 Olympics. However, fencing teams from Russia and Belarus were banned shortly after the invasion of Ukraine. The president of the FIE, Uzbek-Russian Oligarch Alisher Usmanov, decided to temporarily step aside after being sanctioned by the European Union.

Now the tides have turned. A solid majority in the FIE voted in favor of the reincorporation of Russian and Belarussian competitors: 89 votes in favor and 46 against. Fencers will still have to comply with the protocols of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), which state that athletes from both countries can compete if they do so under a neutral flag.

The Ukrainian Fencing Federation attempted to block the resolution twice. Ukrainian sports authorities and President Volodymyr Zelensky himself have asked the IOC to ban all athletes from Russia and Belarus.

Since the start of the war in Ukraine, many Ukrainian athletes have been killed. Their names and stories can be found on the website Angels of Sport. MeanwhileRussian and Belarussian fencers will be en garde after April this year. 

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