Martin Meissner / AP
A Belarusian Olympic sprinter is safe in Tokyo after unwillingly refusing to embark home. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, could seek asylum in another European country after Belarusian officials abruptly removed her from the Tokyo Games and took her to the airport for the flight.
Tsimanouskaya spent Sunday evening in an airport hotel after missing the flight from Haneda airport on Sunday, Reuters reported. International Olympic Committee spokesman Mark Adams told a press conference the sprinter requested police protection at the airport and was now safe. “The most important thing right now is our duty of care to her,” he told reporters.
The sprinter told Reuters that coaching staff showed up to his door on Sunday and ordered him to pack his bags. She was supposed to compete in the 200-meter event on Monday, but the Belarusian Olympic Committee withdrew her from the competition citing her “emotional and psychological state”.
But Tsimanouskaya strongly contests this account. She told Reuters she was forced to return home after talking badly about her coaches on Instagram.
Adams said Tsimanouskaya felt safe, but did not say who was protecting the athlete or where she was being held despite repeated requests to name an agency.
The IOC and Tokyo 2020 spoke directly with Krystsina Tsymanouskaya this evening. She is with authorities at Haneda Airport and is currently accompanied by a Tokyo 2020 staff member. She told us she felt safe. / 1
– IOC MEDIA (@iocmedia) August 1, 2021
Reuters reported that a representative of the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes facing difficulties for expressing political opposition to the country’s authoritarian leadership, said Tsimanouskaya was considering seeking asylum. Several European countries said on Monday that they would be open to such a request.