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Belarusian sprinter being protected at Tokyo airport hotel after refusing to fly back to Minsk

Written by on 02/08/2021

A Belarusian sprinter who refused to get on a flight from Tokyo after she said she was taken to an airport against her will is “safe and secure” and being looked after, the International Olympic Committee has said.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, spent the night in an airport hotel after seeking protection from Japanese police at Haneda airport late on Sunday.

The Olympian said she was seized by officials from her own country on Sunday after she publicly complained about the national coaches.

Mark Adams, spokesman for the International Olympic Committee, said Tsimanouskaya was talking with Games officials about what to do next.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus reacts after competing in Heat 6 of the women's 100m at the Tokyo Olympics
Image: Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus criticised team officials on her Instagram account

He said: “She assured us and has assured us that she feels safe and secure. She spent the night at an airport hotel in a safe and secure environment.

“The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with her and the Japanese authorities to determine the next step in the upcoming days.”

Tsimanouskaya had been due to compete in the women’s 200 metres and the 4×400 metres relay at the Tokyo Olympics this week.

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But she criticised team officials on her Instagram account, saying she was put in the relay despite never having raced in the event before.

She had also claimed some members of her team were judged ineligible to compete because they had not undergone enough doping tests.

Coaching staff went to Tsimanouskaya’s room and told her to pack as a response to what she had said, she claimed.

Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she has been taken to Tokyo Airport against her will
Image: Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she has been taken to Tokyo Airport against her will

When she arrived at the airport, she summoned Japanese police and refused to board the flight to Minsk via Istanbul.

An activist group supporting her said she feared for her life in Belarus and planned to seek asylum with the Austrian Embassy.

Poland has also offered her a humanitarian visa, with Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz saying she is “free to pursue her sporting career in Poland if she so chooses”.

In a message on social media, Tsimanouskaya said: “I was put under pressure and (Belarus team officials) are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent.”

Who is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya?

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is a Belarusian sprinter competing in her first Olympics.

The 24-year-old previously competed in nine international competitions, coming second in the 100m at the European U23 Championships held in Poland in 2017 and winning gold for her 200m performance at the 2019 Summer Universiade in Italy.

She came fourth in the women’s 100m heat on 30 July, and was scheduled to take part in the 200m race on Monday 2 August.

In a statement on its Facebook page, the Belarus Olympic Committee said Tsimanouskaya was removed from the Games because of her “emotional and psychological state”.

It said: “According to doctors, due to the emotional and psychological state of the Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the coaching staff of the national athletics team decided to stop the performance of the athlete at the XXXII Olympics.

“Consequently, the athlete’s application for participation in qualifying races at 200m and in the 4x400m relay was recalled.”

The IOC has been in dispute with the Belarus National Olympic Committee, which is headed by the country’s authoritarian president Alexander Lukashenko and his son Viktor.

Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya stands surrounded by police officers at Haneda international airport in Tokyo, Japan
Image: Tsimanouskaya refused to board her flight and instead asked police for protection

Both of them were banned from the Tokyo Games after the IOC received complaints from athletes about intimidation and reprisals following the protests that began last August after the country’s disputed presidential election.

During the protests, the international community and the people of the country themselves were, as Sky correspondent Diana Magnay wrote, “taken aback by the brutality of police and prison guards meted out on so many of the 7,000 detained in the days after the contested election results”.

In May, Belarusian journalist Roman Protaevich was arrested after his Ryanair flight was forced to land in Minsk, prompting international condemnation and sanctions.

 Sky News

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