Fencing-Denmark cancels event over Russian, Belarusian participation

FILE PHOTO: A foil and fencing mask are seen during a training session of members of Ukraine's fencing team at the Olympic training base, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in Kyiv, Ukraine March 28, 2023. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

(Reuters) - An international fencing event in Copenhagen has been cancelled due to the participation of Russian and Belarusian athletes, the Danish Fencing Federation said on Thursday.

Athletes from the two countries have been banned from most elite international sporting competitions since last March in the wake of Russia's invasion of Ukraine, which Moscow calls a "special military operation".

Yet fencers from Russia and Belarus were cleared to return to International Fencing Federation (FIE) events after a vote was held at its Extraordinary Congress on March 10.

"We came to the conclusion that we're unfortunately unable to carry it out," Danish Fencing Federation board chairman Jan Sylvest Jensen told Denmark's news agency Ritzau, adding that the decision was made at a meeting on Wednesday.

"We can't do that when the rules are as they are now, when the Russians and Belarusians are allowed to be a part of it. We cannot see ourselves in that."

At the FIE's congress, more than 60% of nations voted in favour of Russian and Belarusian fencers being allowed to compete.

"It's probably no secret that we voted against them being allowed to participate," Jensen said.

"We also have the small problem that our fencers don't want to be a part of it. Recently, over 300 fencers have submitted a petition to the IOC saying that we do not want them back."

The cancelled Trekanten International, which was scheduled in Copenhagen for Oct. 7-8, is an annual satellite event, considered to be ranked just below the World Cup level.

"The program/calendar is not public for 2023-2024. But we had confirmed the dates a couple of weeks ago. So we had to (withdraw)," Jensen told Reuters.

"For the fencers, this means that in order to qualify for the Olympics, they have to travel further and thus incur greater expenses," Jensen added to Ritzau.

"For Denmark, this means that we risk losing the tournament going forward. We may not be able to hold an international event in Denmark at senior level."

Ukraine's fencers have recently welcomed their federation's decision to boycott international competitions featuring Russians and Belarusians, after Germany bowed out of hosting an FIE World Cup event and Poland considered doing the same.

(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Toby Davis)

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