EXCLUSIVE Belarusian sprinter determined to defect on option to airport over security fears

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EXCLUSIVE Belarusian sprinter determined to defect on option to airport over security fears



WARSAW, Aug 5 (Reuters) – Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya determined to defect as she was being pushed to a Tokyo airport as a result of her grandmother advised her that it was not secure to return dwelling to Belarus.In an unique interview with Reuters in Warsaw on Thursday, she stated her household feared she could be despatched to a psychiatric ward if she went again to Belarus, and that her grandmother had known as her to inform her to not return.”I’ve all the time been removed from politics, I did not signal any letters or go to any protests, I did not say something towards the Belarusian authorities,” she stated.”I am a sportsperson and I did not perceive something in political life. I strive to not do something apart from a sport in my life and I strive my finest to not be distracted by politics.””It could sound merciless due to all of the horrible issues that occurred in Belarus final summer time however I used to be making an attempt to avoid it, however all I’ve wished is to go to the Olympics and do my finest,” she stated, referring to protests final 12 months towards President Alexander Lukashenko that led to a police crackdown.”I wished to be within the closing and compete for medals.”Lukashenko’s spokesperson didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark after Tsimanouskaya’s interview.The 24-year-old athlete brought on a furore on Sunday when she stated coaches offended at her criticism had ordered her to fly dwelling from Tokyo. After looking for safety from Japanese police, she flew on Wednesday to Poland as a substitute of Belarus.Poland, which has lengthy been essential of Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule and harboured many activists from Belarus, has granted Tsimanouskaya and her husband humanitarian visas. Her grandmother stays again dwelling.”Grandmother known as me once they have been already driving me to the airport,” the athlete stated. “Actually, I had some 10 seconds. She known as me, all that she advised me was: ‘Please don’t come again to Belarus, it isn’t secure’.””That is it, she hung up,” she stated. “I’d need to return to Belarus. I like my nation. I didn’t betray it and I hope I can return.”‘I AM NOT AFRAID’Tsimanouskaya’s saga, paying homage to Chilly Warfare sporting defections, threatens to additional isolate Lukashenko, who’s below Western sanctions after a crackdown on opponents since final 12 months.Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who left the Olympic Video games in Tokyo and seeks asylum in Poland, attends an interview with Reuters in Warsaw, Poland August 5, 2021. REUTERS/Darek GolikRead MoreThe sprinter, who had criticised negligence by her crew coaches, spent two nights in Poland’s embassy in Japan earlier than flying to Vienna after which Warsaw on Wednesday. She additionally held a information convention within the Polish capital on Thursday. The Belarus Nationwide Olympic Committee had stated coaches withdrew Tsimanouskaya from the Video games on medical doctors’ recommendation about her emotional and psychological state. It didn’t instantly reply to requests for added touch upon Thursday.Tsimanouskaya stated she had advised her coach on Sunday that she was able to run within the 200 metres, however he then went to make a name.”And in couple of hours the pinnacle coach got here to me with the crew consultant they usually stated there was a choice made to ship me dwelling, we’re not those who made the choice, we’re solely executing it. You will have 40 minutes. You must pack your issues and go to the airport,” she stated.The choice, she stated, got here from “excessive up”.On the airport in Tokyo, the coaches have been taken without warning, the athlete stated.”They didn’t count on that within the airport I can method the police. They suppose that we’re scared to make a transfer, that we’re afraid to talk, afraid to inform the reality to the entire world. However I’m not afraid,” she stated.”I’m not of these people who find themselves scared. I’m all the time staying for reality. I respect myself. I respect my work. And I additionally need different individuals to respect themselves, to respect their work and cease being afraid and begin talking overtly about what worries them.”Earlier than going to Tokyo, Tsimanouskaya was not among the many few Belarusian Olympians who publicly voiced help for the opposition to Lukashenko.Opposition figures have been prosecuted, jailed or fled since mass protests towards Lukashenko started final 12 months, even earlier than he gained a sixth presidential time period in an election that observers and critics say was rigged. He denies electoral fraud.Sports activities play a excessive profile position in Belarusian politics below Lukashenko, who headed the Belarus Olympic committee till he was changed by his son this 12 months.The Worldwide Olympic Committee has began an investigation into Tsimanouskaya’s case and stated it might hear from the 2 Belarusian officers allegedly concerned.”This can be a very turbulent interval of my life. However I hope it’ll quickly be over. That I can proceed my profession,” Tsimanouskaya stated. “And I additionally suppose that I actually need to assist individuals like myself. If they’ve any sort of stress on them, I’m prepared to assist them.”Reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber and Tom Balfmorth, Extra reporting by Maria Vasilyeva, Tatyana Gomozova and Angelina Kazakova in Moscow, Writing by Timothy Heritage; Enhancing by Nick Tattersall and Angus MacSwanOur Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Belief Ideas.



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