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Two Belarusian coaches in sprinter drama kicked out of Olympic village

TOKYO – Two Belarusian coaches were stripped of their accreditation and kicked out of the Olympic Village on Friday, just days after a sprinter from that country refused to return home and has now taken refuge in Poland.

Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich “were asked to leave the Olympic Village immediately and did so … in the interests of the well-being of the athletes,” the International Olympic Committee said in a statement.

Meanwhile, new details have emerged about how quick-witted sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was able to escape her masters on Sunday by using Google Translate to communicate with Japanese police – and claiming she left something in the village for save more time when the police initially didn’t realize they needed help.

Shimak and Maisevich were identified by the IOC as the coaches who drove Tsimanouskaya to Haneda Airport outside Tokyo and tried to put her on a plane to Minsk when she rushed off. to the Japanese police.

“They will be given the opportunity to be heard” by the IOC Disciplinary Board, but for now they are out, said the IOC.

It was not immediately clear whether the coaches had left Japan. NBC News has contacted the National Olympic Committee of the Republic of Belarus for comment.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, told a press conference Thursday in Warsaw that “I never imagined this situation would turn into a political scandal.”

“It was an argument about the coaches which forced me to run a race that I was not prepared for and that I had not trained for,” she said in Russian. .

When asked how his teammates reacted, Tsimanouskaya said: “I imagine most of them try not to end up like me.”

Tsimanouskaya, who had made the women’s 100-meter playoffs, got into trouble after criticizing her coaches on Instagram for scheduling her to run the 4×400-meter relay. She revealed that the athletes who were supposed to compete in this race did not complete the mandatory drug tests.

This did not go well in Belarus, where President Alexander Lukashenko was widely criticized for brutally cracking down on political opponents who tried to remove him from a post he had held since 1994. Lukashenko’s son Viktor, is President of the Belarusian Olympic Committee.

Tsimanouskaya said she didn’t decide to defect until she spoke with her grandmother

by mobile phone on the way to the airport. She said her grandmother warned her of a backlash in state media, some of which reported she was mentally ill, and told her not to come home.

Her parents, Tsimanouskaya said, urged her to flee to Poland, which has long-standing cultural and historical ties with Belarus and has sheltered dozens of dissidents opposed to Lukashenko.

Polish media reported that Tsimanouskaya took off from Japan on Wednesday and traveled to Vienna, Austria first to avoid flying over Belarusian airspace.

Three months ago, Lukashenko forced a Ryanair flight carrying a dissident to land in Minsk and arrested him and his girlfriend.

Tsimanouskaya’s husband Arseni Zdanevich fled Belarus after news of her escape came out to avoid arrest and is with her in Warsaw. She said she feared for the safety of her family still in Belarus and that she had a message for her compatriots.

“I want to tell all Belarusians not to be afraid and, if they are under pressure, to speak up,” she said.

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