The Belarusian runner decided to escape on his way to the airport

Olympic runner Kristina Tsimanoskaya decided to defect on her way to an airport in Tokyo because her grandmother told her it was not safe to go home to Belarus.

In an exclusive interview with Reuters in Warsaw, she said her family feared being sent to a psychiatric ward if she returned to Belarus, and that her grandmother had called her to ask her not to return.

«I have always been away from politics, I have not signed any letters or gone to any protests, I have not said anything against the Belarusian government,» she said.

«I’m an athlete and I didn’t understand anything about politics. I try not to do anything other than sports in my life and I do my best not to be distracted by politics.»

«It may seem cruel because of all the terrible things that happened in Belarus last summer but I was trying to get away from it, but all I wanted was to go to the Olympics and do my best,» she said, referring to the protests. Last year against President Alexander Lukashenko, which led to a police crackdown.

«I wanted to be in the final and compete for medals.»

Lukashenko’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment after interviewing Ms. Tsimanoskaya.

The 24-year-old caused an uproar on Sunday when she said coaches, angry at her criticism, had ordered her to return home from Tokyo. After seeking protection from the Japanese police, yesterday I traveled to Poland instead of Belarus.

Poland, which has long been a critic of Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule and harbors many Belarusian activists, granted Tsimanoskaya and her husband humanitarian visas. Her grandmother is still at home.

READ  Ireland Weather: The Met Eireann predicts a sudden change in the weather with the arrival of the low pressure system

«My grandmother called me when they were already driving me to the airport,» said the athlete. «Literally, I had about 10 seconds. She called me, all she told me was: ‘Please don’t come back to Belarus, it’s not safe.'»

«That’s it,» she said, «hang up the call.» «I would like to return to Belarus. I love my country. I did not betray it and I hope to be able to return.»

The Tsimanoskaya saga, reminiscent of Cold War sports fissures, threatens to further isolate President Lukashenko, who has been under Western sanctions after a crackdown on his opponents since last year.

The runner, who has criticized neglect by her team coaches, spent two nights at the Polish embassy in Japan before traveling to Vienna and then to Warsaw. It also held a press conference in the Polish capital today.

The Belarus National Olympic Committee said the coaches withdrew Ms Tsimanoskaya from the Games on the advice of doctors about her emotional and psychological state. It did not immediately respond to requests for additional comments.

Ms Tsimanoskaya said she told her coach on Sunday she was ready to run the 200 metres, but he then went to make a call.

“And within two hours the coach came to me with the representative of the team and said that a decision was made to take me home, we are not the one who made the decision, we are just implementing it. You have 40 minutes. You have to pack your things and go to the airport.”

She said the decision came from «above».

READ  Travelers from Britain urged to 'strictly adhere' to home quarantine rulesقواعد

The athlete said the coaches were surprised at the Tokyo airport.

«They didn’t expect that at the airport I could approach the police. They think we’re afraid to make a move, that we’re afraid to speak up, that we’re afraid to tell the truth to the whole world. But I’m not afraid,» she said.

“I am not one of those people who are afraid. I always stand for the truth. I respect myself. I respect my work. I also want others to respect themselves, respect their work and stop being afraid and start speaking openly about what worries them.”

Before she went to Tokyo, Tsimanoskaya was not among the few Belarusian Olympians who publicly expressed support for Lukashenko’s opposition.

Opposition figures have been prosecuted, imprisoned or escaped since mass protests against Lukashenko began last year, even before he won a sixth term in an election that observers and critics say is rigged. Denies electoral fraud.

Sport plays a prominent role in Belarusian politics under the leadership of Alexander Lukashenko, who headed the Belarus Olympic Committee until he was replaced by his son this year.

The International Olympic Committee has launched an investigation into Ms Tsimanoskaya’s case and said it will hear from the two Belarus officials allegedly implicated.

«This is a very turbulent period in my life. But I hope it will be over soon. I will be able to continue my career,» she said. «And I also think that I really want to help people like me. If they have any kind of pressure on them, I’m willing to help them.»

Deja una respuesta

Tu dirección de correo electrónico no será publicada. Los campos obligatorios están marcados con *