TOKYO – A Belarusian sprinter was under the protection of Japanese authorities on Monday, a day after leaping for freedom at an airport in the Tokyo area, claiming her team was forcing her home after publicly criticizing her coaches at Olympic Games.
Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya requested protection from Japanese police at Haneda airport on Sunday after refusing to board a flight to Minsk, the International Olympic Committee and Japanese authorities confirmed.
“They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission,” Tsimanouskaya, 24, said in a video posted online by the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, or BSSF, a breakaway sports organization.
The IOC confirmed in a tweet on Sunday that Tsimanouskaya “is with the authorities at Haneda airport”.
“She told us she felt safe,” he said.
The Polish government was the first to provide Tsimanouskaya with a safe haven.
“She has been offered a humanitarian visa and is free to continue her sports career in Poland if she wishes,” said the Deputy Foreign Minister. Marcin Przydacz said on Twitter.
The Czechs also offered to host Tsimanouskaya, and the BSSF said she could seek asylum in Germany or Austria.
Tsimanouskaya’s escape, which was first reported by Reuters, came as Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko was widely criticized for his brutal crackdown on political opponents trying to remove him from a post he held. since 1964.
The president of the Belarusian Olympic committee is Victor, the son of Lukashenko.
The National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus and the Belarusian Consulate in Tokyo did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Sviatlana Tsikhanoskaya, Belarusian opposition leader in exile called the IOC to protect the sprinter and accused the Lukashenko regime of trying to “kidnap” her, likening the airport incident to the forced landing in May of a Ryanair plane in Minsk to arrest dissident journalist Roman Protashevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega.
Tsimanouskaya, who ran in the women’s 100-meter playoffs on Friday, was expected to compete in the 200-meter playoffs on Monday and the 4 × 400-meter relay on Thursday. She said she had problems with her coaches after complaining on Instagram that she was forced to run the relay after other team members were ruled ineligible to compete in the Olympics because ‘they had not undergone all the doping tests.
“Some of our girls did not fly here to participate in the 4 × 400 meter relay because they did not have enough doping tests,” Tsimanouskaya told Reuters at the airport. “And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I have spoken about it publicly. The head coach came to me and told me there was an order from above to pull me out. “
The Belarusian contingent was visible outside the Olympic Village, mostly men traveling in pairs with their country’s name engraved on the back of their sports jackets or polo shirts. On Sunday, two Belarusian photographers were doing a photoshoot at the Tokyo Big Sight elevated station with a young woman. It was not clear if she was an athlete or a model.