Belarusian Olympic Sprinter arrives in Vienna in fear of safety


Moscow-Belarus sprinter arrived in Austria on Wednesday after Olympic team officials resisted an attempt to send her home to Belarus.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrived in Vienna by direct flight from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport at 3:08 pm local time, but was planning to travel to Poland. Before leaving Japan, Zimanuskaya said she wanted her to be able to continue her career, but that safety was her immediate priority.

After a 24-year-old runner asked the European Union to evacuate, several countries offered help and Poland granted her a humanitarian visa.

Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation activist Vadim Krivosheyev said Tsimanouskaya flew to Austria with the advice of Polish authorities.

“The decision to change routes and fly to Vienna was made by the Polish side for safety reasons,” Kribosheev told The Associated Press.

According to Krivosheyev, Tsimanouskaya will head to Warsaw later on Wednesday.

Zimanuskaya’s experience at the Tokyo Olympics was after Belarusian team officials took her to the airport a few days ago and accused her of trying to fly to Belarus for criticizing the team’s management on social media. It has become an international issue. A team official said she had revealed that she would face retaliation in her hometown.

“After returning home, I’ve definitely revealed that I’ll face some form of punishment,” Zimanuskaya told AP in a video call interview from Tokyo on Tuesday. “There was also a faintly disguised hint that more people were waiting for me.”

She added that she believed she would be kicked off from the Belarusian national team.

“I’m only 24 years old and have at least two more Olympic plans, so I want to continue my sports career,” said Tsimanouskaya. But “for now, all I’m worried about is my safety.”

Dzmitry Dauhalionak, the head of the Belarusian delegation for the Summer Olympics, who contacted him by phone on Tuesday, declined to comment, saying he had no words.

Tsimanouskaya’s criticism of how authorities controlled her team has sparked a massive backlash in Belarusian state media. The runner told Instagram that he had participated in the 4×400 relay even though he had never participated in the event. After that, she was banned from the 200 meters.

Sprinter called on Tuesday to investigate the situation in which he issued the order, which actually made the decision that I could no longer compete. She proposed possible sanctions for the head coach.

In an interview with AP, Zimanuskaya also expressed concern to his remaining parents in Belarus. Her husband, Arseni Zudanevic, told AP that he had decided to leave the country when Zimanuskaya said she would not come back.

Belarus has been shaken by months of protest after President Alexander Lukashenko won the sixth term in the August 2020 elections and the opposition and the West considered it fraudulent. Authorities responded to the demonstration by cracking down on more than 35,000 people being arrested and thousands being beaten by police.

Responding to curb the objections at any cost, they ordered a passenger plane flying from Greece to Lithuania to circumvent and land in the Belarusian capital in May, arresting an opposition journalist on board.

Tsimanouskaya has announced his intention to stay abroad with two other Belarusian athletes in a rift with team officials.

Heptathlon Yana Maximaba said she and her husband Andrei Krauchanka, who won the silver medal in the decathlon at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, will remain in Germany. “I’m not going home after all the events that happened in Belarus,” Maximaba said on Instagram, “you can lose not only your freedom but your life,” in her hometown. Added.

The prestigious President of Belarus, who led the Belarusian National Olympic Committee for about a quarter of a century, showed a keen interest in sports before handing over to his eldest son in February, and sports are an important element of national fame. I think there is.

Lukashenko and his son were banned from participating in the Tokyo Olympics by the International Olympic Committee, which investigated complaints from athletes that they faced threats during the crackdown on anti-government protests last year.

Western leaders have accused Belarusian authorities of treating Zimanoskaya.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has accused Belarusian officials of trying to force Zimanuskaya to return to Belarus to exercise freedom of speech as “another act of cross-border oppression.”

“Such behavior violates the spirit of the Olympics, insults basic rights and is unacceptable,” Blinken said on Twitter.

Vladimir Isachenkov