A Belarusian Olympian who complained about her coaches used Google Translate to relay her plea for help to Japanese police
A Belarusian Olympic sprinter used her phone to translate a plea for safety to Japanese officials after she was forced to fly home for publicly criticizing her coaches.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya complained about the way her team was managed on social media, and team officials forced her to say she was injured and had to leave the Tokyo Games early, the Associated Press reported Thursday.
Team officials "made it clear that, upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment," she told the AP. "There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me."
She was forced to fly home ahead of the conclusion of the games. On the way to the airport, Tsimanouskaya's grandmother in Belarus informed her of the backlash against her by state-run media and told her not to return home.
After arriving to the airport, the Olympic athlete then used Google translate on her phone at the airport to relay her plea for help to Japanese police that she was boarding the flight to Belarus against her will. When approached by a Belarusian official to see what was wrong, Tsimanouskaya pretended that she forgot something at the Olympic Village and needed to return, and Japanese authorities eventually took her away from the officials.
The Olympian fled to Poland earlier this week after the country granted her a humanitarian visa to avoid possible retribution in her home country. Her husband Arseni Zdanevich was also granted a visa and fled Belarus to join Tsimanouskaya in Poland.
Josep Borrell, the foreign policy chief for the European Union, announced Tsimanouskaya's arrival in Poland on Wednesday.
"One more proud Belarusian has however been forced to flee her own country due to the actions of the Lukashenko regime and Olympic truce been violated," Borrell tweeted.
Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko and his son, Viktor, served on the Belarus National Olympic Committee for more than two decades. Both were banned from the Tokyo Games by the International Olympic Committee after some athletes complained that Belarusian officials intimidated them amid the authoritarian government's crackdown on dissent in the country.
The Olympic runner called on the IOC to investigate her situation and "to establish the facts" as to "who gave the order, who actually took the decision that I can't compete any more," she said on Tuesday. She also suggested possible "sanctions against the head coach who approached me and who deprived me of the right to compete in the Olympic Games."
Despite the standoff with Lukashenko regime, Tsimanouskaya distanced her athletic career from the politics in her home country.
"I don't want to get involved in politics," she told the AP. "For me, my career is important, only sports is important, and I'm only thinking about my future, about how I can continue my career."
Tsimanouskaya said she has not yet considered seeking political asylum and still intends on returning to Belarus when it is safe but expressed her hope that this won't be her last chance to compete in the Olympic Games.
"I just wanted to run at the Olympics, it was my dream," she said. "I still hope that these were not the last Olympics in my life."