Tokyo-Belarus truck sprinter claimed that her Olympic team tried to take her out of Japan in a conflict that led to a standoff on Sunday night at a major airport in Tokyo.
A group of activists supporting Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she believed her life was at stake in Belarus and would seek asylum from the Austrian embassy in Tokyo.
Tsimanouskaya said in a movie message delivered on social media that he was under pressure from Belarusian team officials and sought help from the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
“I’m under pressure and they’re trying to force me out of the country without my consent,” said the 24-year-old runner.
Zimanuskaya, who will run in the Olympic 200-meter heat on Monday, has criticized Belarusian team officials on her Instagram account. She said she was put in the 4×400 relay even though she had never attended the event.
The Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation said government supporters had targeted athletes, and Tsimanouskaya contacted the group to avoid what she feared was a deportation to Minsk.
“The campaign was very serious and it was a clear signal that her life would be at risk in Belarus,” BSSF spokesman Alexander Opeikin told The Associated Press in an interview.
Zimanuskaya summoned Japanese police at Haneda Airport and did not board the plane to Istanbul. Foreign ministry officials later arrived at the airport, according to Opeikin.
In a statement released by BSSF, Zimanuskaya said he was at the police station early Monday morning.
“I explained the situation to police officers about how they were taken from the Olympic Village,” she said. “Now I’m in a safe situation and I’m thinking about where to spend the night.
The IOC, which had been in conflict with the Belarusian National Olympic Committee prior to the Tokyo Olympics, said it had intervened.
“The IOC is … investigating the situation and seeking clarification from the NOC,” the Olympics said in a statement.
Poland, a Belarusian neighbor who has become home to many critics of the Minsk administration, has provided help to Zimanuskaya. “We have a humanitarian visa and are free to pursue a sports career in Poland if we wish,” Marsin Pujidatch, Deputy Foreign Minister, said on Twitter.
The National Olympic Committee of Belarus has been led by authoritarian state president Alexander Lukashenko and his son Victor for over 25 years.
Both Lukashenko were banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC, which investigated complaints from athletes in the face of retaliation and intimidation from protests after the presidential election in August last year.
A spokesman for the Belarus Olympic team did not respond to a request for comment.
Zimanuskaya will be taken to a safe place and will seek asylum from the Austrian embassy, Mr. Opeikin said.
Zimanuskaya was already competing with Belarus on the first day of athletics at the National Stadium in Tokyo on Friday. She finished fourth in the first round heat at 11.47 seconds at 100 meters and did not move forward.
Graham Dunbar and Daniel Kozin