Belarus Olympian safe in Tokyo hotel after refusing ‘forced’ flight homeon August 2, 2021 at 7:15 am

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Krystsina Tsimanouskaya alleges she was almost forced on to a plane home after criticising her coaches.

A Belarusian Olympian who refused her team’s order to fly home early is safe after seeking protection from Japanese police, Games officials have said.

Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, spent the night in a hotel at Tokyo’s Haneda airport. She says she was forcibly taken to the airport on Sunday for criticising coaches.

Belarus says she was removed from the team because of her emotional state.

The Czech Republic and Poland have offered the athlete a visa.

Ms Tsimanouskaya is reportedly considering seeking asylum in Europe.

She was being looked after by the Japanese authorities, International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman Mark Adams said. A number of agencies were in contact with her, including the UN refugee agency.

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee had been asked for a full report into the issue. The IOC and the Japanese authorities will also be holding further consultations.

Mr Adams also said the IOC had taken measures against the Belarusian committee in the run-up to the Games, after last year’s protests over the disputed re-election of the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko.

It banned some officials, including the president’s son, for failing to protect athletes who had joined the demonstrations.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya surrounded by police

image sourceReuters

On Sunday, Ms Tsimanouskaya sought police protection at Haneda’s terminal so she would not have to board the flight, voicing fears for her safety if she were to be returned to Belarus.

The flight took off without her on board.

The sprinter, who was due to compete in the women’s 200m event on Monday, had earlier complained on social media about being entered into another race at short notice after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.

The video led to criticism in state media, with one television channel saying she lacked “team spirit”.

Ms Tsimanouskaya said officials had come to her room and given her an hour to pack her bags before being escorted to the airport. She says she was “put under pressure” by team officials to return home and asked the IOC for help.

“They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission,” she said in a video posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which was created last year to support athletes during the anti-Lukashenko protests.

Anatol Kotau, a member of the group, told the BBC on Sunday: “She’s afraid of repression on her family in Belarus – this is the main concern for her right now.”

Government forces brutally cracked down after hundreds of thousands protested. Some of those who took part were also national-level athletes, who were stripped of funding, cut from national teams and detained for demonstrating.

The Belarusian Olympic committee said Ms Tsimanouskaya had been taken off the team because of her “emotional and psychological condition”.

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