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An open letter from Sergei Sharikov, the double Olympic Champion, to the global fencing community.

An open letter from Sergei Sharikov, the double Olympic Champion, to the global fencing community.

At the official web-site of the International Charity Fund “For the Future of Fencing”  we are discussing over a year problems of modern fencing, associated primarily with numerous changes in refereeing procedures and  selection system, initiated by the International Fencing Federation (FIE), providing an opportunity to coaches, athletes, referees, sports leaders to express their ideas. Today we publish extracts from an interview with Sergei Sharikov, the Senior Coach of the Russian junior national team, who expressed his views and concerns upon completion of the 2008 World Fencing Championship among juniors and cadets.

Working at the 2008 World Fencing Championship among juniors and cadets, I observed one rather alarming trend, concerned with the application of video records for refereeing.

I think, the idea of applying video records for refereeing is reasonable, it is addressed to minimize the number of arbitration errors. FIE incentive to make consistent the interpretation of complicated situations during the bouts is also creditable to fencing.

Coaches are well aware, what the athletes need to be prepared to, and fencers themselves act thoughtfully. One of the most important idea in fencing is the undisputable decision of the referee, taken on the strip.

Nevertheless, this idea happened to be discredited. The referee has his rights, liabilities and responsibility. The person at the monitor should assist the referee to avoid mistakes. However, when the FIE representative explains to the referee, what decision he should take in regard to some fencing elements, the referee’s responsibility is dismissed. Even in case the referee has a different opinion, he should accept the FIE representative’s decision in regard to the score. Herewith, the referee is not responsible for the decision, as well as the FIE delegate, who is not a referee.  
As a result, the idea of video records is distorted. Video replays are turned into a tool for referees’ management for the purpose of manipulation with results. It is important to the FIE management that a greater number of fencing federations would win the competitions. In this case the FIE can report to the International Olympic Committee on the extensive fencing development, confirmed by a greater number of medals, won by representatives of the new fencing countries.

In fact, to grant a medal to some fencer, one has to take it away from another one. From whom? There is only one candidate, it is Europe, whose representatives are winning the majority of awards in all fencing tournaments. It concerns not only Russian fencers, but all European athletes as well. The Russian team performance at the World Fencing Championship among juniors and cadets was fairly well, we have won ten medals. Herewith, the French team managed to get only one bronze medal, even less than the national team of Egypt, whereas the result of the counterpart competition between those teams, if the one would be arranged, is quite predictable, isn’t it?  

Rene Roch has joined to FIE a lot of fictitious fencing federations. He wants to prove, that quantity promotes quality! And here you are, the Egyptian team gets awards at the World Fencing Championship. It is worth to turn upside down any competition score for such a result.
What is the way to do it in practice? In Acireale, for instance, at the crucial moment, Mohammad El-Motavakel, the member of Refereeing Committee (Egypt), would appear at the monitor. I have no intention to detract his merits, but I am not sure he is competent in all types of weapons better than the referees, who were close to the strip. Nevertheless, whenever a disputable situation occurred, he would give the instructions to the referees, what decision they should take.

Dear colleagues!

Please, notice, this is only the juniors’ World Championship, and the first place in this tournament is not crucially important. However, we are looking forward to the Olympics and other prominent tournaments. FIE management incentive is to arrange so that representatives from as many countries as possible win the medals. Those persons are not concerned how many awards will be won by the teams of Italy, France, Hungary, Russia and Poland. It is evident, that they will get some awards. However, the FIE is interested, that South Korea, USA and Venezuela teams would get the medals, and in case they manage to pull through also Egypt and Tunisia, they will be absolutely happy with the results.   

I am absolutely not against those and other countries winning medals at fencing tournaments. But they should deserve them in a fair sports competition, rather than as a result of sports officials’ manipulation. I vote for the fair development of fencing. And you?

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