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Saturday, September 25, 2021
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Belarusian athlete at Tokyo airport after being sent home for criticizing coaches

A Belarusian sprinter said she was taken to the airport against her wishes on Sunday (August 1) to board a flight back home after she complained about national coaches at the Tokyo Olympics.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was due to compete in the women’s 200 metres on Monday (August 2), told Reuters she did not plan to return to her home country.

She said she had sought the protection of Japanese police at Tokyo’s Haneda airport so she would not have to board the flight.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that coaches had decided to withdraw Tsimanouskaya from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state”.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

A Reuters photographer and TV camera crew witnessed the athlete standing next to Japanese police.

A police officer at Haneda airport said they were with a female Olympic athlete from Belarus at Terminal 3.

A source at the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday (August 2).

Tsimanouskaya filmed a video that was published on Telegram by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, in which she asked the International Olympic Committee to get involved in her case.

The IOC did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, said coaching staff had come to her room on Sunday and told her to pack. She was taken to the airport before she could run in the 200 metres and 4×400 metres relay on Thursday.

She said she had been removed from the team due “to the fact that I spoke on my Instagram about the negligence of our coaches”.

Tsimanouskaya had previously complained she was entered in the 4×400 m relay after some members of the team were found to be ineligible to compete at the Olympics because they had not undergone a sufficient amount of doping tests.

Tsimanouskaya added that she had reached out to members of the Belarusian diaspora in Japan to retrieve her at the airport.

(Production: Irene Wang, Akiko Okamoto, Tim Hart)

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