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Tokyo 2020: Belarus athlete taken to airport after criticism of coaches

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she is refusing to fly home.

Tsimanouskaya pictured at the Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade.
Tsimanouskaya pictured at the Napoli 2019 Summer Universiade.
Image: Ernesto Vicinanza/PA

BELARUSIAN ATHLETE KRISTINA Timanovskaya was forced out of the Tokyo Olympics after she publicly criticised sports officials of the ex-Soviet country, a non-governmental organisation has said.

The 24-year-old had criticised Belarus’s athletics federation for entering her into the women’s 400m relay in Tokyo without notice.

“It turns out our great bosses as always decided everything for us,” Timanovskaya said on her Instagram stories that are no longer available.

She later said in a separate Instagram post that she wouldn’t have “reacted so harshly if I had been told in advance, explained the whole situation and asked if I was able to run 400 metres.”

“But they decided to do everything behind my back,” she added.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) – an organisation that supports opposition athletes – said on its Telegram that “representatives of the Belarusian national team are deporting” Timanovskaya.

The group later said that the runner, who was due to compete in the 200m on Monday, was at a Tokyo airport and posted a video of her addressing the International Olympic Committee.

“I am under pressure and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the International Olympic Committee to interfere,” Timanovskaya said in the video.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee said in a statement that Timanovskaya left the competition following medical advice because of her “emotional and psychological state”.

The BSSF quoted Timanovskaya as saying this was “not true” and she was not examined by doctors.

The IOC said in a statement to AFP: “The IOC has seen the reports in the media, is looking into the situation and has asked the NOC (Belarus Olympic officials) for clarification.”

Belarus opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya thanks the IOC for their “quick reaction” to the situation, adding that Tsymanouskaya has a right to international protection & to continue participation in the Olympics.

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BSSF was founded last August by retired Belarusian swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia, as protests erupted after the disputed re-election of strongman President Alexander Lukashenko.

Herasimenia – who now lives in exile in Lithuania – sold her 2012 world championship gold medal to raise funds for the foundation.

It provides financial and legal assistance to athletes targeted by the authorities after calling for an end to the violent police crackdown on demonstrators.

The turmoil has led to Belarus being stripped of hosting this year’s ice hockey world championship and a ban on Lukashenko attending Olympic events.

- Additional reporting from Adam Daly 

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