An Olympic sprinter from Belarus is safe in Tokyo after refusing to board a flight home against her will. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, may seek asylum in another European country after Belarusian officials abruptly pulled her from the Tokyo Games and took her to the airport for the flight.
Tsimanouskaya spent Sunday night in an airport hotel after missing the flight from Haneda airport Sunday, Reuters reported. International Olympic Committee Spokesperson Mark Adams said during a news conference that the sprinter had sought police protection at the airport and is now safe. “The most important thing at the moment is our duty of care for her,” he told reporters.
The sprinter told Reuters that coaching staff showed up at her door Sunday and ordered her to pack her things. She was supposed to compete in the 200-meter event Monday, but the Belarusian Olympic Committee withdrew her from the competition citing her “emotional, psychological state”.
But Tsimanouskaya sharply disputes that account. She told Reuters she was being forced to return home after speaking poorly about her coaches on Instagram.
Adams said Tsimanouskaya feels safe, but would not elaborate on who was protecting the athlete or where she was being held despite repeated requests to name an agency.
Reuters reported a representative from the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes who face hardships for voicing political opposition to the country’s authoritarian leadership, said Tsimanouskaya plans to seek asylum. Several European countries indicated Monday they would be open to such a request.