Sports

Belarusian sprinter leaves Japan on flight to Austria

(Update 2: adds change in destination, minor edits throughout)

Vienna/Tokyo, Aug 4 (EFE).- Belarusian Olympian Krystsina Tsymanouskaya on Wednesday boarded a flight from Tokyo to Vienna, instead of to Warsaw as expected, the Austrian foreign ministry confirmed to national news agency APA.

The 24-year-old sprinter on Sunday sought protection from police at Haneda Airport after, she said, team officials removed her from Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and transferred her to the airport to be sent back to Belarus against her will.

She sought diplomatic protection in the Polish embassy and was offered a humanitarian visa for the country. The athlete was expected to fly to Warsaw on Wednesday, but the change of destination occurred at the last minute for security reasons, according to Austrian public radio ORF.

Tsymanouskaya embarked on her trip back to Europe on an Austrian Airlines flight to Schwechat-Vienna International Airport, which was scheduled to land Wednesday afternoon.

She had left the Polish embassy around 7 am on Wednesday morning for Narita International Airport, Kyodo news reported.

Poland, which supports Belarusian political refugees and the democratic opposition against President Aleksander Lukashenko’s regime, was the first to offer asylum to the Olympic athlete.

Pavel Latushka, head of the Belarusian opposition group National Anti-Crisis Management, tweeted Tuesday night: “Feeling excited to meet Krystsina Tsimanouskaya tomorrow at Warsaw Chopin airport.”

Also Tuesday, Polish Ambassador to Japan Pawel Milewski tweeted that Tsymanouskaya is “doing well and thanks us all for extending a helping hand against those who do not wish her well.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has set up a disciplinary commission as part of its investigation into the case, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said on Wednesday.

“Today, the IOC is opening a Disciplinary Commission to establish the facts in the case of K. Tsymanouskaya and to hear the two officials, Mr Artur Shumak and Mr Yuri Moisevich, who have allegedly been involved in the incident,” Adams said.

He added that the IOC had received a written report by the Belarusian Olympic Committee on Wednesday, which would now be evaluated.

On Sunday, Tsymanouskaya said she was told to pack and was taken to the airport from the Olympics by team officials after complaining on social media that her coaches had instructed her to compete in an event she was not scheduled for. These comments were deemed as criticism of the Belarus government, she said.

“I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent,” she said in a video posted on social media, asking the IOC to intervene.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee, headed by the president’s son Viktor Lukashenko, said in a statement that Tsymanouskaya was withdrawn from the Games on doctors’ advice about her “emotional, psychological state.”

She was scheduled to run in the 200-metre heats on Monday and the 4x400m relay on Thursday. EFE

ahg/pd/tw

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