Fencing competitions in Germany, Poland canceled after Russia, Belarus decision


The fencing federations of Germany and Poland canceled upcoming World Cups due to the International Fencing Federation (FIE) voting on March 10 to lift its ban on fencers from Russia and Belarus.

The FIE voted to reinstate fencers from Russia and Belarus into international competition starting in the second half of April, “subject to possible future IOC recommendations/decisions, and in compliance with conditions of neutrality and individual eligibility.”

The FIE did not respond to a request for more details, but the U.S., British and Ukrainian federations all issued statements shortly after the vote indicating that they expected the reinstatement to happen.

After the FIE vote, the IOC on March 28 updated its recommendations to sports federations regarding Russia and Belarus athlete participation, advising that they can return to competitions outside of the Olympics as neutral athletes in individual events and only if they do not actively support the war in Ukraine. It is up to each international sports federation to decide whether to readmit Russians and Belarusians.

Since the IOC update, other sports federations said they plan to look into possible reinstatement of Russia and Belarus athletes under those conditions. Other than fencing, taekwondo’s international federation is the lone sport so far to definitively reinstate Russians and Belarusians to top-level competition since the IOC update, saying it will do so for world championships at the end of May.

Before the IOC update, Russians and Belarusians were already eligible to compete in some other international sports, including tennis and cycling, as neutral athletes.

The 2024 Olympic qualifying window for fencing begins this month and lasts into April 2024. Fencers can earn points to qualify quota spots for their nations in individual and team events.

The Polish fencing federation announced last Wednesday that it will not host a previously scheduled World Cup from April 21-23 in Poznan, the lone World Cup scheduled in April.

“There is a risk that a large number of competitors with Russian and Belarusian passports will be admitted in a poorly controlled manner,” the federation said, according to a Reuters translation. “The Polish Fencing Association supports the Ukrainian Fencing Federation in its efforts to remove from the competitions and the world fencing environment people who support the brutal war in Ukraine and endorse the regime of Vladimir Putin. So as the organizer of the World Cup in Poznan, it could not accept such a situation.”

That came after the German federation announced on March 16 that it will not host a previously scheduled World Cup the first weekend of May in Tauberbischofsheim, the hometown of IOC president and 1976 Olympic fencing champion Thomas Bach.

After Germany canceled its World Cup, another World Cup was added to the FIE schedule for the same weekend in Bulgaria.

“Our solidarity goes to the people of Ukraine who are suffering from the war of aggression,” German federation president Claudia Bokel said in the March 16 announcement, according to a Reuters translation. “The German Fencing Federation accepts [the FIE] decision. We now want to give a clear signal that we would have liked a different result and that we still see a large number of open implementation questions from the world federation, which make it impossible to carry out the tournament.”

The next top-level international fencing competition scheduled is a Grand Prix in Seoul in two weeks.

The Ukraine government decided in late March that, across sports, its athletes should not compete in 2024 Olympic qualifying events if Russians are present, according to several media reports in Ukraine.

USA Fencing voted against reinstating Russia and Belarus. CEO Phil Andrews said last month that decisions on competing in events that allow Russia and Belarus athletes would be up to the individual American fencers.

“Our primary focus is the well-being and support of our athletes,” Andrews said in a statement. “We believe in empowering our athletes to make informed decisions about their participation. We will provide them with the necessary information regarding how their choices may impact their qualification for future tournaments, especially the Olympics. However, let me be clear: USA Fencing will not impose any penalties, and will support any funding impacts, on our athletes for choosing not to compete, or to protest this shocking decision. Their personal convictions and comfort levels are of utmost importance to us, and we stand by them, no matter their decision.”

Russian fencers topped the Tokyo Olympic standings with eight medals and three golds, competing under the Russian Olympic Committee name. Belarus, which has zero Olympic fencing medals, had no fencers at the Tokyo Games and one fencer at the Rio Games.

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At the French Open, a Ukrainian mom makes her comeback

Elina Svitolina French Open

Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina, once the world’s third-ranked tennis player, is into the French Open third round in her first major tournament since childbirth.

Svitolina, 28, swept 2022 French Open semifinalist Martina Trevisan of Italy, then beat Australian qualifier Storm Hunter 2-6, 6-3, 6-1 to reach the last 32 at Roland Garros. France’s top player, fifth seed Caroline Garcia, or 56th-ranked Russian Anna Blinkova is next.

Her husband, French player Gael Monfils, finished his first-round five-set win after midnight on Tuesday night/Wednesday morning. Svitolina watched that match on a computer before going to sleep ahead of her 11 a.m. start Wednesday.

“This morning, he told me, ‘I’m coming to your match, so make it worth it,'” she joked on Tennis Channel. “I was like, OK, no pressure.

“I don’t know what he’s doing here now. He should be resting.”

FRENCH OPEN DRAWS: Women | Men | Broadcast Schedule

Svitolina made at least one major quarterfinal every year from 2017 through 2021, including the semifinals at Wimbledon and the U.S. Open in 2019. She married Monfils one week before the Tokyo Olympics, then won a singles bronze medal.

Svitolina played her last match before maternity leave on March 24, 2022, one month after Russia invaded her country. She gave birth to daughter Skai on Oct. 15.

Svitolina returned to competition in April. Last week, she won the tournament preceding the French Open, sweeping Blinkova to improve to 17-3 in her career in finals. She’s playing on a protected ranking of 27th after her year absence and, now, on a seven-match win streak.

“It was always in my head the plan to come back, but I didn’t put any pressure on myself, because obviously with the war going on, with the pregnancy, you never know how complicated it will go,” she said. “I’m as strong as I was before, maybe even stronger, because I feel that I can handle the work that I do off the court, and match by match I’m getting better. Also mentally, because mental can influence your physicality, as well.”

Svitolina said she’s motivated by goals to attain before she retires from the sport and to help Ukraine, such as donating her prize money from last week’s title in Strasbourg.

“These moments bring joy to people of Ukraine, to the kids as well, the kids who loved to play tennis before the war, and now maybe they don’t have the opportunity,” she said. “But these moments that can motivate them to look on the bright side and see these good moments and enjoy themselves as much as they can in this horrible situation.”

Svitolina said that she’s noticed “a lot of rubbish” concerning how tennis is reacting to the war.

“We have to focus on what the main point of what is going on,” she said. “Ukrainian people need help and need support. We are focusing on so many things like empty words, empty things that are not helping the situation, not helping anything.

“I want to invite everyone to focus on helping Ukrainians. That’s the main point of this, to help kids, to help women who lost their husbands because they are at the war, and they are fighting for Ukraine.

“You can donate. Couple of dollars might help and save lives. Or donate your time to something to help people.”

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Marcell Jacobs still sidelined, misses another race with Fred Kerley

Marcell Jacobs

Olympic 100m champion Marcell Jacobs of Italy will miss another scheduled clash with world 100m champion Fred Kerley, withdrawing from Friday’s Diamond League meet in Florence.

Jacobs, 28, has not recovered from the nerve pain that forced him out of last Sunday’s Diamond League meet in Rabat, Morocco, according to Italy’s track and field federation.

In his absence, Kerley’s top competition will be fellow American Trayvon Bromell, the world bronze medalist, and Kenyan Ferdinand Omanyala, the world’s fastest man this year at 9.84 seconds. Kerley beat both of them in Rabat.

The Florence Diamond League airs live on Peacock on Friday from 2-4 p.m. ET.

Jacobs has withdrawn from six scheduled head-to-heads with Kerley dating to May 2022 due to a series of health issues since that surprise gold in Tokyo.

Kerley, primarily a 400m sprinter until the Tokyo Olympic year, became the world’s fastest man in Jacobs’ absence. He ran a personal best 9.76 seconds, the world’s best time of 2022, at last June’s USA Track and Field Outdoor Championships. Then he led a U.S. sweep of the medals at July’s worlds.

Jacobs’ next scheduled race is a 100m at the Paris Diamond League on June 9. Kerley is not in that field, but world 200m champion Noah Lyles is.

The last time the reigning Olympic and world men’s 100m champions met in a 100m was the 2012 London Olympic final between Usain Bolt and Yohan Blake. From 2013 to 2017, Bolt held both titles, then retired in 2017 while remaining reigning Olympic champion until Jacobs’ win in Tokyo, where Kerley took silver.

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