Belarus Olympic athlete Krystina Timanovskaya flies out of Japan

·2-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A Belarusian Olympic sprinter who refused to fly home from the competition over fears for her safety has left Japan.

Krystina Timanovskaya boarded a flight to Vienna on Wednesday morning following a night in a secure hotel under protection from Japanese police.

She has said she was forcibly taken to the airport earlier this week and told to board a flight to Belarus after criticising her coaches.

The 24-year-old had been expected to travel directly Poland on Wednesday, which had granted her a humanitarian visa.

However, airport officials claimed she had changed destination at the last minute.

The athlete was due to compete in the women's 200metres on Monday. She had complained in a video on her social media about being entered into the 4x400metre relay at short notice after some teammates were deemed ineligible to compete.

The video led to criticism in state media and allegations she lacked "team spirit".

Ms Timanovskaya told the BBC her comments were not a political protest and were a disagreement with Belarus Olympic coaches.

She said: “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 athlete said she was “put under pressure” to leave the Games and driven to Tokyo's Haneda airport last week after posting comments on social media.

She refused to board a plane and was given police protection before being moved to the Polish embassy in Tokyo.

Belarus claimed it wanted to remove her from the Games because of her mental and emotional state.

But, Ms Timanovskaya said she did not suffer from any mental health issues and was surprised when coaches told her she had to leave the Olympics.

The incident has put a further spotlight on Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who has run the country since 1994.

Last year protests over his disputed re-election were violently repressed and athletes who joined the demonstrations were stripped of funding and cut from the national team.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched an investigation.

IOC spokesman Mark Adams said: “We need to establish the full facts, that can take time. In the meantime our first concern is for the athlete.”

Ms Timanovskaya’s husband, Arseniy Zdanevich, has also fled Belarus and is reportedly in Ukraine.

He told the BBC that the couple had never been involved in politics and would return home if it was confirmed they would not face criminal charges.

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