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02nd Aug 2021

Belarus Olympian safe under police protection in Tokyo after refusing ‘forced’ flight home

Danny Jones

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya refuses to fly home after team order

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she was “forced” to leave and stay in a Tokyo hotel overnight under police protection

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarusian Olympian who was competing in the women’s 100m, has now been ordered to fly home by her team after alleged criticism she made towards coaching staff.

The 24-year-old sprinter has refused the dismissal and would not board any aircraft after allegedly being taken to the airport against her will on Sunday for apparently criticising coaches.

Belarus official stance is that she was ordered to leave due to her “emotional condition”, leaving Tsimanouskaya stranded in Tokyo’s Haneda airport, where she spent the night in a hotel after seeking protection from Japanese police.

The Belarusian Olympian is now said to be considering seeking asylum in Europe, with the Czech Republic and Poland already believed to have offered the athlete a visa.

At Monday’s news briefing in Tokyo, International Olympic Committee (IOC) spokesman, Mark Adams, said Tsimanouskaya was now being looked after by the Japanese authorities.

He went on to add that the UN refugee agency was also involved and that Belarus’ National Olympic Committee (NOC) had been asked for a full written report on ongoing the issue.

He also went on to say said that 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. Back in August of last year, the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) was even set up to ensure sportspeople’s safety during the protests.

The IOC banned some officials, including the president’s son, for failing to protect athletes who had joined the demonstrations. Upon being forcefully escorted to the airport, Tsimanouskaya sought police protection at Haneda’s terminal after voicing fears for her safety if she were returned to Belarus.

The sprinter – who was also due to compete in the women’s 200m event on Monday – claimed officials came to her room and gave her an hour to pack her bags before being escorted to the terminal. She says she was “put under pressure” by team officials to return home and asked the IOC for help while she refused to board any flights.

The Belarusian hopeful had already complained on social media about being entered into another race on such short notice after and mainly because 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”.

“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 BSSF; meanwhile, the organisation’s Anatol Kotau said: “She’s afraid of repression on her family in Belarus – this is the main concern for her right now.”