The International Fencing Federation called for the return of Belarusian and Russian athletes to international competitions
The judges ask the fencers this question (‘Are you ready?’) before the start of the fights. Now, when the International Fencing Federation called for the return of Belarusian and Russian athletes to international competitions, we asked the leadership of our federation about it.
The International Fencing Federation (FIE) has decided to return Belarusian and Russian athletes to international competitions. At the extraordinary congress of the organisation, which was held online, 89 delegates voted for the admission of fencers from the two countries, while 46 were against.
Acting Chairman of the Belarusian Republican Fencing Federation Vitaly Sokolovsky says: the decision made at the FIE Congress was unexpected and expected at the same time. The issue of admission of athletes from the two countries to international competitions was to be considered back in November last year at the congress in Lausanne, but then it was decided to return to this matter later, “We participated in that congress and, after talking with representatives of many national federations and members of the executive committee of the International Fencing Federation, we understood that they wanted to see Belarusian and Russian athletes at international competitions. And yet, there were certain concerns: the consideration of this issue could again be moved to a later date, and so on.”
Fortunately, this did not happen. Vitaly Sokolovsky draws attention to the fact that each of the items put to the vote (on the admission of athletes to participate in individual and team competitions, the admission of officials, judges, coaches and staff) was accompanied by a remark ‘taking into account the recommendations of the IOC’. So far, the organisation has not made any new statements regarding the return of Russians and Belarusians, but consultations of members of the FIE Executive Committee and the IOC are scheduled at the end of March. After that, it will become known in what status and under what conditions the fencers will be allowed to start.
“While these recommendations are not in effect, little has changed for us. Looking forward to further decisions. If we talk about international competitions, in which our athletes can theoretically take part after mid-April [that’s when the decision of the congress should come into force], then there are really a lot of them. These are the stages of the World Cup, and other tournaments. But we understand that much will depend on the organisational component. When we understand the issues related to logistics, obtaining visas, security, when we have a clear understanding that we will be able to get to the venue of the competition and participate in them, then we will make a decision on specific tournaments. Of course, we would like our athletes to perform at the July World Championships in Milan. This is the main start in the non-Olympic year, where ranking points are played with a good coefficient. But let’s look at the situation,” Vitaly Sokolovsky explains.
In the meantime, Belarusian fencers continue to work according to the approved plan. They are preparing for the competition together with Russian athletes. Sabre fencers and foil fencers are currently training in Russia, épée fencers are going to go there next week.
“We started joint training with the Russian team even before the introduction of restrictions on our athletes. For Belarusian fencers, this is the most useful co-operation, because the level of development of fencing in Russia is very high, and the athletes of this team are world leaders in all types of weapons. Our athletes and coaches learn from their experience. Fencing is a martial art, and good, high-quality sparring is especially important in it. In Belarus, on average, there are 3–4 athletes of a decent level in each type of weapon, in Russia — more than 20. The competition is outrageous. We expect that our joint work will continue after all restrictions are lifted: the co-operation agreement between the federations has been concluded until 2028,” Vitaly Sokolovsky emphasised.
Co-operation is not limited to training camps alone: the athletes of the two countries have a busy schedule of joint starts. Now the fencers of our national team are getting ready to take part in the Russian championship, which will be held in April in Vladikavkaz, and the athletes of the junior cadet and cadet level went to the competitions in Kazan. By the way, another major tournament may appear on the calendar in June — the open championship of the Union State. However, we will return to the issue of holding it when all the conditions for the return of our athletes to international competitions become known.
TO THE POINT
The International Fencing Federation is not the first organisation to decide on the return of Russian and Belarusian athletes to tournaments held under its auspices. Last year, the International Boxing Association (IBA) removed all restrictions from the athletes of the two countries. India has been hosting the Women’s World Championship in this sport for a week already, among the participants of which are athletes from Belarus and Russia. They perform under their own flags and anthems. The decision to allow them caused outrage in a number of countries — the championship was boycotted by the federations of the USA, Poland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Ireland, Great Britain, Sweden, the Czech Republic, Canada and Ukraine. IBA President Umar Kremlev said the day before: athletes from these countries would like to compete in the tournament, but officials prevent them from doing so. “Sport is a culture and values that have been created over the years. When sport begins, all conflicts end. We boxers say that sport, especially boxing, is higher than politics. When boxing starts, all conflicts, all swearing end,” Kremlev said.
By Tatiana Pastushenko