Want away Belarus Olympian, Krystina Timanovskaya says grandmother warned her not to come home
Sprinter from Belarus who refused her team’s orders to fly home early from the Olympics has revealed she decided to flee after her grandmother warned her it was not safe to return.
Krystina Timanovskaya would want to return home but concludes that now: “It’s dangerous for me in Belarus”
She arrived in Poland where she’s been granted a humanitarian visa, on Thursday
The sprinter had complained on social media about being entered into the 4x400m relay race at short notice, after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete
The video led to criticism in state media, with one television channel saying she lacked team spirit
Timanovskaya said two coaches came into her room and told her to pack her bags immediately, ready to return home
She was told to say that she had been injured
An Olympic athlete from Belarus who refused her team’s orders to fly home early from the Olympics has revealed she decided to flee after her grandmother warned her it was not safe to return. The sprinter who refused orders to fly home early from the Olympics has arrived in Poland, where she has been given a humanitarian visa.
Krystina Timanovskaya, 24, left Tokyo earlier on Wednesday. The athlete made a stop-over in the Austrian capital, Vienna, before boarding the flight for the last leg of the journey.
An Austrian official said Ms Timanovskaya was tired and concerned for her future, but doing well under the circumstances.
Giving an interview to the BBC Krystina Timanovskaya said she was being driven to the airport when her grandmother called, saying: “Do not come back.”
The athlete had been ordered to return home after criticizing her coaches.
Belarus says she was removed from the national team because of her emotional state. But the 24-year-old says this is not true.
The athlete voiced fears for her safety after she was forced to pack her belongings and driven to Tokyo’s Haneda airport on Sunday.
The row started after she criticized coaches after being entered into a race at short notice after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.
She told the BBC her actions were not a political protest. “I love my country and I didn’t betray my country.”
“This is about the mistakes that have been made by our officials at the Olympics,” the sprinter told the BBC.
The official position of the Belarus sports association is that she was removed from the national team because of her emotional state.
Timanovskaya has debunked that explanation, stating clearly that she did not suffer from any mental health issues and had not had any conversations with doctors at the Olympic village.
She said she was surprised when team officials told her she was leaving the Games because she “didn’t say anything political”, adding that she would like to return to Belarus “when I know that it’s safe… maybe I’ll only be able to return after five or 10 years”.
The sprinter had complained on social media about being entered into the 4x400m relay race at short notice, after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.
The video led to criticism in state media, with one television channel saying she lacked team spirit.
Timanovskaya said two coaches came into her room and told her to pack her bags immediately, ready to return home. She was told to say that she had been injured.
The sprinter revealed her grandmother said she was concerned that something bad might happen, after watching local news reports on the situation.
“I couldn’t believe [that my grandmother would tell me not to come home] but I asked, ‘Are you sure?’ And she said, ‘Yes. I’m sure. Do not come back,'” she recalled.
“That was the reason why I went to the police.”
At the airport, Timanovskaya showed officers a translated plea for help on her phone in an effort to avoid being put on a plane home.
She was then given police protection before being moved to the Polish embassy in Tokyo. She travelled to Poland on Wednesday.
The mass protests that gripped Belarus last year saw security forces often use violence to break up the demonstrations and thousands of people arrested.
Some of the protesters were national-level athletes, who were then stripped of funding, cut from national teams and detained.
Timanovskaya however, insists that she is “not a political girl” and just wants to focus on her sporting career.
“I don’t know anything about politics. I never was in politics,” she said.
The sprinter affirmed her husband’s position that would to return to Belarus, but that it was too dangerous at the moment.
Her husband has also fled Belarus and has been given a visa for Poland, The athlete’s husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, has since fled Belarus and is currently in Ukraine. He has also been given a visa for Poland. Neither his wife nor himself were involved in politics he said in an interview.
They would return to Belarus if they did not face criminal charges, he says.
Their relatives remain in the country. Timanovskaya said her parents were “OK, just a little bit nervous”, and trying to avoid watching TV reports about their daughter.
“They know me and they know the truth and they know what’s happened,” she said.
She added that the support she had received from people around the world had made her stronger.
Asked about her hopes for Belarus, Timanovskaya said: “I want people in my country not to be afraid anymore”.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched a formal investigation into allegations that Belarus attempted to force her to return home.
It has also requested a report on the incident from the Belarus National Olympic Committee.
The incident has again put the spotlight on Belarus, which has been ruled by President Alexander Lukashenko since 1994.
Last year, nationwide protests over his disputed re-election were violently repressed by the security forces.
Some of those who joined the demonstrations were also national-level athletes, who were stripped of funding, cut from national teams and detain.
In separate cases, two Belarusian opposition figures have gone on trial this week, charged with incitement to undermine national security.
In a seperate incident Tuesday, Vitaly Shishov, the leader of the Kyiv-based Belarusian House in Ukraine whose mission is helping Belarusians fleeing abroad, was found dead near his home in Ukraine. He was found hanged in one of the city’s parks not far from his home. The activist reportedly had gone missing Monday during a morning run.
Authorities in Kyiv have launched a murder probe has been after police said the killing could have been made to look like suicide.
The Belarusian human rights center Viasna cited Shishov’s friends as saying that he has recently been followed by strangers during his runs