Belarus sprinter claims she was punished for returning home

Belarusian Olympic Sprinter, who had an altercation with officials from her Tokyo Games team, said Tuesday that they "made clear" that she would be punished if she returned to an autocratic government that has resisted criticism.

Belarus sprinter claims she was punished for returning home

Belarusian Olympic Sprinter, who had an altercation with officials from her Tokyo Games team, said Tuesday that they "made clear" that she would be punished if she returned to an autocratic government that has resisted criticism.

03 August 2021 Tuesday 15:42
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Belarus sprinter claims she was punished for returning home

KrystsinaTsimanouskaya, who is waiting to leave Japan to seek refugee in Europe, said that she hopes to continue her career but that her safety is her top priority. After she criticized the management of her team on social media, she accused officials of hustling her to the airport and trying to put her on a plane back to Belarus.

Many countries offered assistance, and Poland granted her Monday a humanitarian visa. She will fly to Warsaw later this week.

In a videocall interview from Tokyo, the sprinter, 24, said that team officials had made it clear that he would face punishment upon his return to Japan. "There were also subtle hints that I would be subject to more."

She said that she was certain she would be expelled from the national team. She wants to be able continue running after she is safe.

She stated that she would like to continue her sporting career, even though she is only 24 and had plans for at least two more Olympics. My safety is what concerns me right now.

Tsimanouskaya was asked what made her afraid she would be in danger back home. She said, "The key phrase was, 'we didn’t make the decision for your safety, it was decided other people and we were only ordered to make it happen."

Dzmitry Dzmitry Dauhalionak, head of the Belarusian delegation at the Games, was not available for comment when reached by telephone Tuesday. He stated that he had "no words"

The Belarusian National Olympic Committee stated earlier that it was closely following the situation and working with the International Olympic Committee.

Tsimanouskaya expressed concern for her parents who are still in Belarus during the interview. Arseni Zdanevich her husband told the AP that he left the country after Tsimanouskaya said she was not coming back.

It happened all at once. I only had an hour to collect my things," Zdanevich said from Ukraine, where he said he feels safe even though police are investigating whether a Belarus activist's death there was murder. He plans to visit his wife in Poland where there is a large Belarusian community.

The couple's fears reflect the lengths the Belarus' authoritarian government has at times gone to in its crackdown on dissent, including recently diverting a plane to the capital of Minsk and arresting a journalist aboard. Although President Alexander Lukashenko claimed that the plane was forced to divert due to a bomb threat, European officials condemned the act as air piracy.

Lukashenko seems to be particularly interested in the country's Olympic team. He and Viktor have been leading the Belarus National Olympic Committee for over 25 years. The IOC banned both of them from the Tokyo Games after receiving complaints from athletes about intimidation they suffered during anti-government protests in the past year.

Tsimanouskaya's critique of the management of her team by officials sparked a huge backlash in state media back home. The government has been cracking down on dissent ever since a presidential election one year ago, which triggered unprecedented mass protests.

On Instagram, the runner stated that she was placed in the 4x400 relay despite not having raced in this event before. The 200-meter race was cancelled and she was barred.

Tsimanouskaya fought -- and lost -- a legal battle to be allowed to compete in the event. Tsimanouskaya requested an interim ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, which would have allowed her at the Olympic Stadium on Monday. The semifinals took place in the evening, while the heats were held in morning.

Tsimanouskaya called for international sports authorities to investigate Tuesday's situation. She suggested possible sanctions against the head coach, who approached her and denied me the right of participation in the Olympic Games.

She also stated that athletes weren't guilty and should continue competing.

It is not unusual for athletes to seek asylum at sporting events around the world. These requests are more common during the Cold War, but have occasionally occurred in the years since.

Tsimanouskaya appears to be in a different situation than the norm, although some, including her coach, believe she had been planning something. Tsimanouskaya denied that and said she only made the announcement when she found out she was going to be competing in an event she'd never done before.

Tsimanouskaya stated, "Everything that's happening now absolutely wasn’t in my plans."

European leaders condemned her treatment. Heiko Maas, the German Foreign Minister, stated to Rheinische Post that the rulers of Minsk had shown that they disdain their athletes and that they do not respect the Olympic principles by kidnapping Krystina Tsimanouskaya.

Maas described Lukashenko's government as "politically, morally bankrupt," and added that the overwhelming support for Maas showed that "the spirit is alive and well of friendship and respect." Solidarity and sportsmanship are more powerful than the violence used by Mr. Lukashenko to hold on to power.

The athlete refused to connect her problems with the larger struggle in Belarus.

She said, "I don’t want to get involved with politics." "My career is important to me. Only sports are important. I am only concerned about my future and how I can continue my career.



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