Belarus Runner Safe After Airport Standoff as She Claims Her Team Tried to Remove Her from Tokyo
A Belarusian Olympic sprinter is being offered asylum in Poland after having accused her team of trying to remove her from Japan.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is safe following a standoff at a Tokyo airport on Monday over the dispute and is currently at the Polish Embassy in Tokyo, according to The New York Times.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, said she was put in the 4x400 relay, despite never having raced in the event. After criticizing team officials on Instagram, Tsimanouskaya said she was in fear of her safety in her home country, per the Associated Press.
In a video asking the International Olympic Committee for help, the runner said she "was put under pressure" by Belarus team officials, the outlet reported. "They are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent," she said, alleging that the Belarusian Olympic committee took her from Olympic Village and brought her to the airport.
Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the 200m heats on Monday, now plans to fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, according to Alexander Opeikin, executive director of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Fund (BSSF).
"She is okay. She's a little bit disappointed, because she wanted to continue in the Olympic Games," Opeikin, whose organization opposes the Belarusian government, told The New York Times. "She's disappointed she couldn't compete in the 200 meters today, but she understands the whole situation, she understands her rights, she understands the deep violations of her rights as an athlete, of her human rights."
Poland Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz confirmed on Twitter that his country was offering asylum to the runner, writing, "Kryscina Tsimanouskaya a Belarusian athlet [sic] is already in direct contact with Polish diplomats in Tokyo."
He added, "She has received a humanitarian Visa. Poland will do whatever is necessary to help her to continue her sporting career. [Poland] always stands for Solidarity."
Mark Adams, spokesman for the I.O.C., initially told reporters at a news conference Monday that Tsimanouskaya had gone to the airport along with other athletes who had also finished their events, despite still having an upcoming race, according to the Times.
While he declined to share further details, Adams said reporters would "have to take my word for it" that the athlete was safe.
After contacting police at Haneda Airport, Timanovskaya did not board her flight to Istanbul, reported the AP. According to a statement from BSSF, she was in the police station on Monday morning.
"I explained the situation to a police officer of how I was taken from the Olympic Village," Timanovskaya said in the BSSF's statement. "Now I am in a secure situation and am figuring out the question of where I will spend the night."
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