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Tokyo Olympics: Belarussian athlete Tsimanouskaya refuses to board flight home, seeks asylum

Belarussian athlete Tsimanouskaya refuses to board flight home, seeks asylum..

A Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya refused to get on a flight from Tokyo back to Belarus on Sunday after being taken to the airport against her wishes by her team.

This followed her complaints about national coaches at the Olympic Games.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, was still at Tokyo’s Haneda airport in the early hours of Monday and is now seeking asylum in Europe

The International Olympic Committee said it had spoken to Tsimanouskaya and that she was being accompanied by a staff member of Tokyo 2020 at the airport.

“She has told us she feels safe,” the IOC said in a tweet.

It added the IOC and Tokyo 2020 would continue their conversations with Tsimanouskaya and the authorities “to determine the next steps in the upcoming days”.

The case highlighted discord in Belarus, a former Soviet state that is run with a tight grip by President Alexander Lukashenko. In power since 1994, he faced a wave of protests last year, which some athletes joined.

Tsimanouskaya said coaching staff had come to her room on Sunday and told her to pack.

She said she was taken to Haneda airport by representatives of the Belarusian Olympic team.

But she refused to board the flight and sought protection from the Japanese police instead, telling Reuters in a message over Telegram: “I will not return to Belarus”.

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 committee did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.

In a video published earlier on Telegram by the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, Tsimanouskaya had asked the IOC to get involved in her case.

A source at the foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya planned to request asylum in Germany or Austria on Monday.

The foundation’s head, former Olympic swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia, told Reuters that Tsimanouskaya could also be receiving assistance from Poland.

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