Who is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya? Belarus Olympian fears being JAILED for slamming coaches

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was allegedly forcibly taken to Tokyo airport by members of Belarus' Olympic committee, but airport police stepped in on time


                            Who is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya? Belarus Olympian fears being JAILED for slamming coaches
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya fears for her safety and does not want to return to her home country Belarus (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

A sprinter from Belarus is afraid that she will be sent behind bars in her home country for criticizing her coaches. She was forcibly taken to Tokyo airport and ordered to take a flight to Belarus. Krystsina Tsimanouskaya’s supporters described the whole situation as a “kidnapping” by the members of her country's Olympic committee, but airport police stepped in on time and shifted her to a “safe location”.

The 24-year-old alleged that she was given minutes to do the packing by the officials, who also informed her that she was expelled from the Games and must return home — whose ruler is Alexander Lukashenko, dubbed as "Europe's last dictator". Lukashenko is infamous for hijacking a Ryanair flight and rerouting it to Belarus so that he could take a political opponent onboard into his custody.

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Who is Krystsina Tsimanouskaya?

The whole fiasco began after Tsimanouskaya took to Instagram to criticize her coaches who tried to force her to join the 4x400m relay team despite having no experience in that distance. She actually came to Tokyo to compete in the Olympic 200m heats. Speaking about her fear and the standoff that started on Sunday, August 1, Tsimanouskaya told Tribuna.com, “I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail. I am not afraid that I will be fired or kicked out of the national (team). I am worried about my safety. And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus.”

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus, Beth Dobbin of Great Britain and Schillonie Calvert-powell of Jamaica compete in the Women's 200 meters heats during day four of 17th IAAF World Athletics Championships Doha 2019 at Khalifa International Stadium on September 30, 2019, in Doha, Qatar (Michael Steele/Getty Images)

She also recalled the moment on Saturday, July 31, when she was threatened by Yuri Moisevich, the head coach of the Belarusian national team, who asked her to either drop out of the 200m or she will be “removed from the national team, deprived of work and, perhaps, there will be some other consequences”. Eventually, the two agreed that she would run, but the next day she was asked to pack her bags as according to Moisevich the matter had reached “a higher level”.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) is helping Tsimanouskaya in the matter. The foundation is known for providing aid to athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is also working in favor of Tsimanouskaya after she made an appeal. In a tweet on Sunday, the organization shared: “The IOC and Tokyo 2020 have spoken to Krystsina Tsymanouskaya directly tonight. She is with the authorities at Haneda airport and is currently accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020. She has told us that she feels safe. The IOC and Tokyo 2020 will continue their conversations with Krystsina Tsimanouskaya and the authorities to determine the next steps in the upcoming days.”

It has been said that Tsimanouskaya is now planning to seek asylum in another country. “We will act step by step. I plan to leave Tokyo, but not on the flight they wanted me to be. Now I am under the protection of the police,” she stated. A BSSF insider claimed that Tsimanouskaya had thought of urging Germany or Austria to provide her asylum. While the foundation's head, former Olympic swimmer Aliaksandra Herasim, said she might get asylum in Poland too. Herasim added: “We appealed to a number of countries for help. But the first that reacted was the Polish consulate. We are ready to accept their help.”

Finette Agyapong of Great Britain, Alina Kalistratova of Ukraine, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus and Rebekka Haase of Germany compete in the Women's 200m heat 1 during day 1 of the European Athletics Team Championships at the Lille Metropole stadium on June 23, 2017, in Lille, France (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)

The BSSF has accused supporters of the Belarusian government of targeting Tsimanouskaya. “The campaign was quite serious and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” Alexander Opeikin, a spokesman for the BSSF, told The Associated Press. Tsimanouskaya herself dismissed the Belarusian Olympic Committee’s claim that she was withdrawn from the Tokyo Games on doctors' advice about her “emotional, psychological state”. She mentioned that no doctor checked on her. “No doctors came to me, no one examined me. I have a good psychological state, even though such a situation has occurred. I carry on normally, I have no health problems, no injuries, no mental issues. I was ready to run,” Tsimanouskaya added.

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