A Ukrainian fencer was briefly banned from the World Fencing Championships final week after she refused to shake palms together with her defeated Russian opponent. Olga Kharlan supplied to faucet blades with Anna Smirnova in Milan, however mentioned she would ‘by no means shake palms’ together with her.

Kharlan obtained a ‘black card’ – a disqualification from each particular person and crew occasions on the championships – for her unsporting conduct. Afterwards, she defended her actions, saying that the foundations on shaking palms ought to be completely different for her and different Ukrainians. ‘Throughout this battle we simply can’t do handshakes, and you need to change, and you need to have some respect for us’, she mentioned.

Kharlan’s black-card ban might sound harsh, however there are good explanation why opponents ought to need to shake palms after a fencing match. Fencing is a merciless, brutal sport. It’s each a bodily and psychological contest, like a mixture of boxing and chess. Any drop in focus is deadly, and so makes an attempt to distract or plant niggling ideas within the thoughts of an opponent are frequent. Failing to adapt to an opponent’s technique reveals your individual flaws. Frustrations can simply attain boiling level.

That is why fencing’s traditions of sportsmanship have lasted for hundreds of years. Saluting with swords earlier than the bout and shaking palms afterwards assist to settle any effervescent animosity that will have developed through the extremely tense matches. By refusing to shake palms, Kharlan not solely disrespected her opponent, she additionally disrespected the game itself.

Regardless of this, the choice towards Kharlan has since been reversed by the Worldwide Fencing Federation (FIE), following a wave of on-line fury. Assist for Kharlan poured in, notably from Ukrainian politicians and athletes. Ukrainian international minister Dmytro Kuleba accused Smirnova of ‘enjoying soiled’, whereas tennis participant Elina Svitolina described Kharlan’s disqualification as ‘disrespectful’. Kira Rudik, a Ukrainian MP, mentioned she was ‘completely outraged’ on the suspension, including that ‘we don’t shake bloody palms of the murderers’. These sentiments echo the remarks made by Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky earlier this 12 months, when he mentioned ‘any impartial flag of Russian athletes is stained with blood’.

This type of language should be pushed again towards. Anna Smirnova is a fencer, not a assassin. Just like the overwhelming majority of Russians, she is an harmless bystander within the Russia-Ukraine battle.

That is removed from an remoted incident. It’s now all too frequent for Russian athletes to be punished for the crimes of Vladimir Putin. Final 12 months, Wimbledon enacted a blanket ban on all Russian rivals. For this 12 months’s event, Russian tennis gamers had been allowed to enter solely as impartial athletes.

And it’s not simply sporting our bodies which have been lashing out towards Russians. The Wimbledon ban final spring got here at a time when Conservative MPs within the UK had been calling for laws that will kick Russian youngsters out of British faculties. Tory MP Roger Gale went as far as to name for all Russian visas to be revoked. ‘Ship all people dwelling’, was his demand, despite the fact that, as Gale himself acknowledged, this could hurt many 1000’s of ‘good and trustworthy and respectable Russians on this nation’.

Not even Russian cultural icons have been protected from this Russophobic hysteria, with historic figures from Tchaikovsky to Yuri Gagarin being cancelled on account of their nationality.

I’ve seen the hateful considering behind these outbursts firsthand. At an occasion I attended earlier this 12 months in London, a panel of international correspondents from British newspapers was requested by a Ukrainian viewers member if there have been ‘any good Russians’. You could possibly perceive such anger coming from a younger Ukrainian. However the reply that got here again from one hack at a significant newspaper was completely inexcusable. ‘If there are, there are not more than 100 or so’, he instructed the group. This illiberal journalist appeared to neglect the various 1000’s of courageous Russians who’ve resisted the invasion of Ukraine, to nice private price.

It’s time we stopped taking out our anger in regards to the battle on bizarre Russian residents. Russian athletes are hardly any extra in charge for Putin’s battle than you or I. Punishing them will get us nowhere.

Charlie Peters is a author. Observe him on Twitter: @CDP1882

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