10 days that shook the Olympics: the defection of Krystsina Tsimanouskaya
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 International 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 because her grandmother told her 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.
Friday, Aug. 6
The IOC strips the accreditation of Belarus athletics head coach Yuri Moisevich and team official Artur Shumak and removes them from the Olympic village “in the interest of the wellbeing” the country’s athletes still at the Games.