Olha Hennadiyivna Kharlan (Ukrainian: Ольга Геннадіївна Харлан; born 4 September 1990)[1] is a Ukrainian sabre fencer. She holds a bronze medal from both the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2012 Summer Olympics and is a four-time World champion (2013, 2014, 2017 and 2019) and five-time European champion. She was Olympic team champion in the 2008 Summer Olympics, twice World team champion (2009 and 2013) and twice European team champion. Kharlan was named athlete of the year at the 2009 Ukrainian Heroes of Sports Years awards.[2] She briefly pursued a political career.

Olha Kharlan
Olha Kharlan - 2016-10-05 - 4.jpg
Kharlan in 2016
Personal information
Full nameOlha Hennadiyivna Kharlan
Born (1990-09-04) 4 September 1990 (age 29)
Mykolaiv, Ukraine
Height1.72 m (5 ft 8 in)
Weight63 kg (139 lb)
Head coachArtem Skorokhod
FIE rankingcurrent ranking

Personal lifeEdit

Kharlan was born in Mykolaiv, a shipbuilding town in the south of Ukraine. Her father was a sailing and swimming coach, and taught her to swim when she was still a baby.[3] He also moonlighted as a construction worker and a cab driver. Her mother worked as a painter and plasterer.[3]

Kharlan first interest was in dancing, but the lessons were too expensive for her parents. When she was 10, her godfather, sabre coach Anatoly Shlikar, suggested she take up fencing, where the lessons were free.[4] She came under the training of Artem Skorokhod, who remains her coach as of 2014. Her first success was the national Junior title, won when she was only 13 against teenagers up to five years older.[3]

Kharlan was educated at the Admiral Makarov National University of Shipbuilding in Mykolaiv. She married fellow sabre fencer Dmytro Boiko in August 2014.[5]

Sports careerEdit

Kharlan joined the Ukrainian national team at the age of 14.[6] Her first medal in an international competition was a bronze in the 2005 Junior World Championships in Linz after a defeat against Olympic champion Mariel Zagunis;[7] she also took a silver medal in the team event. That same year, she reached the quarter-finals in the 2005 European Fencing Championships at Zalaegerszeg despite still being a cadet. In 2006, she placed second in the 2006 European Seniors Fencing Championship at İzmir after a close 14–15 defeat against Russia's Sofiya Velikaya.

At the age of 17 Kharlan took part in the 2008 Summer Olympics at Beijing. She was eliminated by No.1 seed Sada Jacobson in the third round of the individual event. In the team event, Ukraine made their way to the final, where they met China. Kharlan contributed more than half her team's hits and proved decisive in the last bout.[6]

In the 2008–09 season Kharlan won the gold medal at the European Championships in Plovdiv both in the individual and the team event, where Ukraine overcame Russia.[8] At the World Championships in Antalya, Kharlan once again made her way to the final, only to be stopped by Mariel Zagunis.[9] She was described as "one of the most precocious talents in this category. She is already steady and consistent, but above all she is the star of the future."[10] In the team event, Ukraine defeated France in the final to come away with the gold medal. For this performance Kharlan and her team were named respectively athlete and team of the year at the Ukrainian Heroes of Sports Year ceremony held in April 2010.[2]

In the 2009–10 season Kharlan won her fourth Junior World Championship in a row, equalling the record established by Jacques Brodin in the 1960s. She is however the only fencer to have claimed these consecutive golds both in the individual and team events.[6] She was defeated by Germany's Sibylle Klemm in the quarter-finals of the European Championships and failed to earn a medal. In the team event Ukraine won gold after beating Russia once again in the final.

Kharlan (R) scores against Galiakbarova in the women's team sabre final of the 2013 World Championships

In the 2013 World Championships Kharlan made her way to the final after defeating reigning Olympic champion Kim Ji-yeon in a tight 15–14 bout. She took an early 8–1 lead in the bout against Yekaterina Dyachenko of Russia, who managed to get back to 12–12. Kharlan then struck three hits in a row to win her first individual World title.[11] In the team event Ukraine met once again Russia in the final. After a very tight match Kharlan managed a comeback in the last leg and received her second gold medal in the competition. She finished the season No.1 in world rankings for the first time of her career and she was inducted in the hall of fame of the International Fencing Federation.[6]

In the 2013–14 season Kharlan won four World Cups out of seven competitions in which she took part. At the European Championships in Strasbourg she earned her fourth European gold medal in a row and the fifth of her career after defeating Dyachenko again in the final.[12] In the team event she had to rescue her team against underdogs Spain in the quarter-finals, scraping a 45–43 victory, but could not prevent a 45–30 defeat at the hands of France. Kharlan's contribution proved once again decisive in the match against Poland and Ukraine came away with a bronze medal. In the World Championships Kharlan won her second title in a row after prevailing 15–12 over No.2 seed Zagunis. In the team event, Ukraine were defeated by 44–45 by the United States and met Italy for the third place. Again Kharlan came back in the last leg to win her team a bronze medal. She finished the season No.1 in rankings for the second time in a row.

At the 2016 Summer Olympics, she bested French competitor Manon Brunet for the bronze medal, with a score of 15–10.[13]

Political careerEdit

In the 2010 Ukrainian local elections Kharlan was elected a member of the Mykolaiv City Council for Party of Regions[14] despite living in Kiev.[15] She was notoriously absent during its sessions[16] She was standing for election to the Ukrainian Parliament in the October 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election but due to a 194th place on the list of Party of Regions she was not elected.[17] Kharlan left the Party of Regions faction in the Mykolaiv City Council late March 2014.[18] In May 2014 she was a candidate for the Party of Greens of Ukraine in the Kiev local election; but the party did not manage to overcome the 3% election threshold and thus did not win any seats in the Kiev City Council.[19] The website of the Party of Greens of Ukraine claimed Kharlan was third on its election list in the October 2012 Ukrainian parliamentary election.[20]

During the 2014 Crimean crisis and the 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine Kharlan spoke out for a united Ukraine.[21][nb 1] In March 2014 Ukrainian fencers boycotted the Moscow World Cup tournament in response to the death of a Ukrainian soldier in the Simferopol incident.[25] They however took part in July 2014 in the 2014 World Fencing Championships in the Russian city of Kazan.[26]


  1. ^ During the 2014 Crimean crisis, Ukraine lost control over Crimea, which was unilaterally annexed by Russia in March 2014.[22][23] The status of Crimea and Sevastopol is currently under dispute by Ukraine and Russia; Ukraine and the majority of the international community consider Crimea an autonomous republic of Ukraine and Sevastopol one of Ukraine's cities with special status, while Russia, on the other hand, considers Crimea a federal subjects of Russia and Sevastopol one of its federal cities. The 2014 pro-Russian conflict in Ukraine created a separatist insurgency in the Donbas region of Eastern Ukraine (where several towns became under the control of armed pro-Russian forces) and insurgents declared several provinces unilateral independent.[22][24]


  1. ^ Ольга Харлан: На олімпіаді ми взяли своє, а китаянок навіть шкода, Сhampion.com.ua (22 October 2008) (in Ukrainian)
  2. ^ a b Герои спортивного года: Ахметов признан лучшим организатором. Bigmir.net (in Ukrainian). 8 April 2010.
  3. ^ a b c Elena Draga (6 September 2013). "Ольга Харлан: "Мой любимый тоже саблист, ездит на все соревнования с моим участием"". Fakty i Kommentarii.
  4. ^ Ollie Williams (19 April 2012). "Ukraine's fencing pin-up Olga Kharlan makes her point". BBC.
  5. ^ Відома шаблістка Ольга Харлан вийшла заміж. Gazeta.ua (in Ukrainian). 23 August 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d International Fencing Federation (ed.). "Kharlan, Olga (UKR)". Archived from the original on 28 July 2014.
  7. ^ Jean-Marie Safra (June 2005). "New nations emerge in fencing elite" (PDF). Escrime XXI (52): 10–11. Archived from the original (pdf) on 28 July 2014.
  8. ^ Marcos Lorenzo (October 2009). "Olga Kharlan, the rising star" (pdf). Escrime XXI (69): 10–11.
  9. ^ Ukrainian women fencers win gold at World Championship, Den
  10. ^ Ioan Pop (October 2009). "The world of fencing meets at Antalya" (pdf). Escrime XXI (69): 52–53.
  11. ^ AFP, ed. (9 August 2013). "L'Ukrainienne Olga Kharlan championne du monde" (in French).
  12. ^ AFP, ed. (9 June 2014). "L'Ukrainienne Olga Kharlan titrée pour la cinquième fois en sabre, première pour l'Anglais James-Andrew Davis en fleuret".
  13. ^ "Women's Sabre Individual". Archived from the original on 8 August 2016.
  14. ^ Харлан Ольга Геннадіївна, Mykolayiv City Council (in Ukrainian)
  15. ^ Olga Kharlan fights her way to a new life, BBC Sport (13 March 2012)
  16. ^ https://news.pn/en/politics/94162
  17. ^ Московский комсомолец:Рада як ніколи Moskovsky Komsomolets:Council as ever, Korrespondent.net (13 September 2012) (in Ukrainian)
  18. ^ https://news.pn/en/politics/100683
  19. ^ https://news.pn/en/politics/105074
  20. ^ https://news.pn/en/politics/104597
  21. ^ https://news.pn/en/sport/98684
  22. ^ a b Ukraine crisis timeline, BBC News
  23. ^ EU & Ukraine 17 april 2014 FACT SHEET Archived 2014-05-14 at the Wayback Machine, European External Action Service (17 April 2014)
  24. ^ Gutterman, Steve. "Putin signs Crimea treaty, will not seize other Ukraine regions". Reuters. Retrieved 26 March 2014.
  25. ^ BBC Sport, ed. (19 March 2014). "Ukraine to boycott fencing events in Russia over 'attack'".
  26. ^ https://news.yahoo.com/photos/kharlan-ukraine-poses-picture-teammates-winning-womens-sabre-photo-184821192--spt.html

External linksEdit