Aida Khasanova: En Guarde! For all world’s circumstances
The 2020 brought the world a big unexpected ‘surprise’ in the form of COVID-19 with its life-changing consequences… Amidst all these uncertainties people need to continue living with the hope of seeing “the light at the end of the tunnel.”
Things that people love and are inspired by can be this light, and for some of us, sports is this beacon that moves forward.
Aida Khasanova, an international fencing referee, was able to overcome the unpredictable circumstances with grace keeping her loyalty to sports. Aida can give a good example of how to deal with the limitations brought about by the pandemic.
En guarde! (French for “Be ready, on guard”).
– Aida, you were supposed to referee in Tokyo last summer, how did you handle the postponement of the Olympic Games?
– Yes, I was so much looking forward to last summer; everything was planned around this event. I had a great start to the year, refereeing the finals at a Grand Prix in Doha.
– I know that your qualification as a referee for the Olympics was a huge deal not only for you, personally, but for the Asian Federation.
– I am the only female fencing referee representing Asia at the Games. In fact, I am the only fencing referee from Central Asia and the first in the history of Uzbekistan. I do feel a high level of responsibility that comes with my Olympic license, realizing that it’s not just about my personal career, but a major leap forward for my country, as well as the continent.
– How has this year been for you since the pandemic started?
– As soon as the tournaments started canceling one after the other worldwide, I began assessing the situation for myself. As soon as the quarantine started in Uzbekistan, I was somewhat ready to keep moving forward and work with the tools that were still available. I was the first in sports in Uzbekistan to utilize Zoom for work. I organized weekly international referee seminars that were led by the world’s best referees: Natalya Juravleva, Vasil Milenchev, Mikhail Paghiev, some leading athletes like Andrey Shuvalov, and many other authorities in the world of fencing.
It was obvious that the situation with COVID-19 and the stay-at-home orders made people feel stressed so my goal, aside from moving forward with the development of referees, was to simply keep people calm mentally. This was why we started offering free yoga classes for the referees and their families.
– It is incredible to hear that you were able to quickly react and take actions at fencing speed, Aida. How were the seminars received by the referees?
– We got an amazing response! We would have 60, sometimes up to 100 participants at a time joining us. It was great to see coaches and athletes come as well. The word about the seminars had spread so quickly that we would even have people from other countries join. I personally consider it a great success because the referees from the different regions of Uzbekistan were able to participate. In fact, these online seminars achieved what we were not able to during the in-person meetings – to have representatives from all twelve regions of the country attending at the same time.
– It looks like you stayed very active with your job in Uzbekistan. What about your work with the International Fencing Federation (FIE), did you miss it?
– Of course, it felt very unusual not to be able to travel for tournaments. But our referee community is very strong and connected. We created a few inspirational videos with colleagues from all over the world participating. It made us feel closely connected, seeing each other in their home environment, and knowing that we were all going through the same experience.
– Aida, I can tell how much you love fencing, and your dedication to it is just incredible. What inspires you to move forward with it in spite of everything?
– Thank you, Olha, for noticing it. I do love fencing. Can I answer this question by not saying WHAT inspires me, but rather WHO?
– Of course.
– I believe fencing currently has the best president for the International Federation – Alisher Usmanov. You can just observe how much fencing, as a sport, has positively transformed since Usmanov came into the leadership role.
Fencing, finally, was able to get a full set of medals at the Olympics. With so many countries joining FIE as new members, we can say that it’s now a known sport almost everywhere. You can find children taking fencing classes on small islands and in countries one wouldn’t even know about. Not to mention fencing tournaments that are being broadcasted on major TV networks, making it a popular sport that is interesting to watch.
All that Usmanov did for fencing wouldn’t be possible without his love for this sport. As busy as he is in life, the work that he has done as the President of FIE is beyond inspirational! And he is truly my role model.
– Aida, this is great and inspiring! We look forward to seeing you in action as a referee at the coming summer Olympics in Tokyo!