Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya defected whilst in Japan for the Olympics after a dispute with her coaches that made her fear for her safety back in her authoritarian-ruled homeland.
The incident, a surprise political drama amid the sporting action in Tokyo, was reminiscent of the defections of top athletes from Soviet bloc nations during the Cold War.
Here are the key moments in Tsimanouskaya’s case beginning with the decision by coaches to place her in a relay.
Tuesday, July 27 – Tsimanouskaya posts a video on Instagram in which she complains about having been entered in the 4x400m relay without her knowledge. She calls it “negligence” by coaches.
Friday, July 30 – She runs in the 100m at the Tokyo Olympics, finishing fourth in her heat and failing to advance to the semi-finals.
Sunday, Aug. 1 – Tsimanouskaya is taken to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport against her wishes. She refuses to get on the plane, and tells Reuters she does not want to return to Belarus. She films a video message calling for the Internationa Olympic Committee (IOC) to help her and seeks protection from Japanese police at the airport. The Belarusian Olympic Committee says she was being removed from the Games because of her psychological and emotional state.
Monday, Aug. 2 – Tsimanouskaya is due to run in the 200m race but instead goes to the Polish embassy in Tokyo to ask for asylum. Warsaw grants her a humanitarian visa and says it will safeguard her.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says trying to send home the sprinter home against her wishes was intolerable “transnational repression”.
Wednesday, Aug. 4 – She flies to Vienna from Tokyo, after having been supposed to board a flight to Warsaw, and then takes another flight on to Warsaw.
Thursday, Aug. 5 – Tsimanouskaya tells Reuters she decided to defect as she was being driven to the airport https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/exclusive-belarusian-sprinter-decided-defect-way-airport-family-fears-about-2021-08-05 because her grandmother told her that it was not safe to return home to Belarus. She says she had not been involved in the political protest movement against President Alexander Lukashenko.
The IOC said it had yet to talk to any Belarusian team officials involved in the case, although it had received a report from the Belarusian Olympic committee.
(Compiled by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber and Angus MacSwan; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne)