Bloomberg Quicktake: Now published this video item, entitled “Belarus Sprinter Says Grandmother Told Her ‘You Can’t Come Home'” – below is their description.
A Belarusian Olympic sprinter who feared reprisals at home after criticizing her coaches at the Tokyo Games said Thursday that her grandmother advised her not to return to Belarus because of negative reports about her on television.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya left the Games and arrived in Poland on Wednesday, days after she accused team officials of trying to force her to fly back to Belarus, where an authoritarian government has relentlessly pursued its critics.
She told reporters Thursday that the officials told her to say she was injured and had to go home early, but she refused.
Meanwhile, back home, her criticism on social media of how her team was being managed set off a massive backlash in state-run media.
Her grandmother told her by phone there were reports on television that she was mentally ill and said it was best for her to not return.
Poland has granted the sprinter a humanitarian visa.
Many of Belarus’ activists have fled to Poland to avoid a brutal crackdown by President Alexander Lukashenko’s government.
In rapid-fire series of events that brought international drama to the Tokyo Games, Tsimanouskaya said Belarus team officials hustled her to the airport and tried to send her home early after she criticized how her team was being managed.
She refused to board the plane, and European countries that are critical of Lukashenko’s rule offered assistance.
On Wednesday, Tsimanouskaya flew from Tokyo via Vienna, a circuitous route that Polish officials indicated was for security reasons.
It’s not clear what’s next for the 24-year-old runner — either in her sporting life or her personal one.
She has urged the International Olympic Committee to look into the dispute and said she hopes to continue her running career.
But she added that her priority would be her own safety.
She was expected to appear at a news conference in Warsaw later Thursday.
The standoff has drawn more attention to Belarus’ uncompromising authoritarian government.
In a sign of the lengths authorities are willing to go to silence their critics, Belarus officials diverted a passenger jet to the capital of Minsk in May and arrested a dissident journalist who was on board.
While Tsimanouskaya’s criticism was aimed at team officials — she complained that she was scheduled to participate in an event she had never competed in — her defiance may have not sit well with political authorities.
Lukashenko, who led the Belarus National Olympic Committee for almost a quarter-century before handing over the job to his son in February, has a keen interest in sports, seeing it as a key element of national prestige.
Tsimanouskaya’s husband, Arseni Zdanevich, fled Belarus this week shortly after his wife said she would not be returning.
Poland has also granted him a visa, and he is expected to join her.Bloomberg Quicktake: Now YouTube Channel
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