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Katrina Lehis to miss Vancouver world championship stage over management clash

Katrina Lehis (left) with fellow competitor Erika Kirpu, at a competition in Tallinn.
Katrina Lehis (left) with fellow competitor Erika Kirpu, at a competition in Tallinn. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Top Estonian women's fencer Katrina Lehis has declined to take part in the world championship stage in Vancouver, Canada, next month, saying that she feels out of the loop with the team as a whole.

Lehis, one of the olympic gold medal-winning women's epee team at the Tokyo games, addressed a letter to the national fencing association, the EVL, outlining the reasons behind her decision. "I've been working hard on myself to get back into top level sport, following injury. I have neither seen nor heard what the management's vision is in terms of the women's team succeeding."

If [that vision] is still there, but hasn't reached me, this demonstrates that I am not being considered, and I'm not part of the plan," Lehis went on.

ERR's Sport portal reports disharmony between Lehis and the remainder of the women's national Epee team has been in the air for months; head coach Kaido Kaaberma, criticized Lehis' performances at a world championship event in Milan in summer, prompting Lehis, and her personal coach Nikolai Novosjolov to respond, a response in which Lehis said she did not see cooperation with Kaaberma being viable, going forward.

General secretary of the Estonian Fencing Association Aivar Paalberg, told Delfi Sport that Lehis and another top women's fencer, Nelli Differt, were required to inform the association whether they wished to take up the position on the national team which their ranking entitled them to.

While Differt answered in the affirmative, Lehis did not, saying that she would talk the matter over with coach Novosjolov after Paalberg contacted her.

"The message then came that competing was not recommended, with no reasons given," Paalberg said.

Lehis reached the semi-finals of the world championship event in Legnano, Italy, at the start of this month, but was not included in the team lineup for that competition.

Katarina Lehis took Gold in the women's epee individual event at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, held in 2021 due to the pandemic, and was part of the bronze medal-winning Estonian foursome at the same games.

She picked up a knee injury in July 2022.

The FIE Vancouver event runs December 7-9.

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Editor: Andrew Whyte, Kristjan Kallaste

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