© Reuters. Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was escorted by police at Haneda International Airport in Tokyo, Japan on August 1, 2021. REUTERS/Issei Kato
Author: Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber
Tokyo (Reuters)-A Belarusian sprinter said that after she complained about the Olympic national coach, she planned to avoid taking the plane home from Tokyo after being taken to the airport against her will on Sunday.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was originally scheduled to participate in the women’s 200-meter race on Monday, told Reuters that she had sought protection from Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport so that she would not have to board the plane.
“I will not return to Belarus,” she told Reuters in a message on Telegram.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, said that the coaching staff came to her room on Sunday and asked her to pack her bags. She said that she was taken to the airport by a representative of the Belarusian Olympic team.
The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that the coach decided to withdraw her from the Olympics based on the advice of the doctor Zimanusskaya on the “emotional and psychological state”. The committee did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
The International Olympic Committee stated that it had talked with Zimanusskaya, who was accompanied by an organizer of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics at the airport.
The IOC said in a tweet: “She told us she feels safe.” It added that the IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their dialogue with Zimanusskaya and the authorities, “to determine the next few days The next move”.
Earlier, a Reuters photographer saw the athlete standing next to the police at the airport. “I think I am safe,” Zimanusskaya said. “I’m with the police.”
In a video posted on Telegram by the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation earlier, Zimanusskaya asked the International Olympic Committee to intervene in her case.
A source at the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said that Zimanusskaya plans to apply for asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday. The foundation supports athletes who have been imprisoned or marginalized for political views.
Belarus is a country in the former Soviet Union, strictly controlled by President Alexander Lukashenko. Since taking power in 1994, he has faced a wave of protests last year, and some athletes have also joined the wave of protests.
Tsimanouskaya participated in the women’s 100m preliminaries on Friday and plans to participate in the 200m preliminaries on Monday and the 4x400m relay on Thursday.
She said that because “I talked about the negligence of our coach on Instagram”, she has been removed from the team.
Tsimanouskaya once complained on Instagram that after some team members were found to be ineligible for the Olympics, she entered the 4x400m relay because they did not receive a sufficient number of doping tests.
“Some of our girls did not fly here to participate in the 4x400m relay race because they did not conduct adequate doping tests,” Zimanusskaya told Reuters at the airport.
“The coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I talked about it publicly. The head coach came over and said to me that there was an order to remove me.”
Tsimanouskaya added that she has contacted members of the Belarusian diaspora in Japan, hoping to pick her up at the airport.
The exiled leader of the Belarusian opposition party Svyatlana Zihanusskaya urged the International Olympic Committee to deal with the athlete’s case.
“Thank you #IOC for the quick response to Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsymanouskaya. She has the right to receive international protection and continue to participate in @Olympics,” Tsikhanouskaya tweeted.
“It is also vital to investigate the violation of the rights of athletes by the National Olympic Committee of Belarus.”
Athlete sentenced to jail
President Lukashenko faced mass street protests last year over alleged election manipulation by opponents and ordered violent suppression of protesters. Lukashenko denied the allegations of vote-rigging.
In a country where elite athletes often rely on government funding, it is unusual that some famous Belarusian athletes joined the protests. Several people have been jailed, including Olympic basketball player Yelena Leuchanka https://www.reuters.com/article/us-belarus-election-basketball-idUSKBN27D1QS and decathlete Andrei Krauchanka https://www.reuters. com/article/us-belarus-election-olympic-idUSKBN28614P.
Others lost their national jobs or were kicked out of the national team for supporting the opposition.
During the Cold War, dozens of sports and cultural figures defected from the Soviet Union and its satellite countries in overseas competitions or tours. However, the freedom of travel brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 reduced the need for such dramatic behavior.