Why a Belarusian Olympic sprinter refused to fly home

The Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya flew out of Tokyo on Wednesday to begin a life in exile after refusing to return home. Andrew Roth describes a growing threat to internal critics of the regime

When the Belarus sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya criticised her coaches for entering her ‘behind [her] back’ in the 4x400m relay event at the Tokyo Olympics, she set off a chain of events that quickly went beyond her control. On Sunday, she was removed from the team and driven to the airport by officials. But Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight back to Minsk and sought Japanese police protection.

The Guardian’s Andrew Roth tells Rachel Humphreys that this sporting disagreement quickly became political and Tsimanouskaya had little option but to seek refuge outside of Belarus. Now she has flown from Tokyo to Vienna after being granted humanitarian assistance by Poland. Her husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, fled Belarus for Ukraine on Sunday.

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