A Belarusian sprinter voiced fears for her safety as she refused an order to fly home early from the Olympics for criticising her coaches. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya says she was forced to pack before being taken to the airport in Tokyo against her will.
The 24-year-old says she sought police protection at the terminal so she would not have to board the flight. “I think I am safe. I am with the police,” she was heard saying, as she was pictured surrounded by officers. The sprinter, who was due to compete in the women’s 200m event on Monday, had complained on social media about being entered into another race at short notice. She says she was “put under pressure” by team officials to return home and asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for help. “They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission,” she said in a video posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF), a group that supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views. The International Olympic Committee earlier said it had spoken to Tsimanouskaya and that she was being accompanied by a Tokyo 2020 staff member at the airport. The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state”. The committee did not immediately respond.