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The Belarusian Olympic sprinter who fled to Poland after publicly criticizing her coaches said she was able to do so thanks to Japanese police, Google Translate — and her babushka.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, slammed her coaches last week for putting her in a relay she hadn’t trained for and was soon whisked away to Tokyo’s Haneda airport and ordered to return home to avoid “some problem[s]” in the country if she failed to oblige, ITV reported.
Her grandmother had warned her not to return because she was hearing negative reports about her on state-run media channels, so Tsimanouskaya refused to board the plane and used her phone to translate a message asking Japanese police for help.
“When I arrived at the airport, I used Google Translator to translate in Japanese that I needed help. I came to police and showed the translation,” Tsimanouskaya explained to reporters during a news conference Thursday.
Japanese cops took her into protective custody and within a couple of days, she was en route to Poland with a humanitarian visa.
Tsimanouskaya’s public criticism set off a firestorm in Belarus and the authoritarian regime started publishing reports saying she was mentally ill and could be locked up if she returned to the country.
“My grandmother, she called me and she said, ‘you can’t come back to home’ because on the TV they say a lot of bad words about you, that you have some mental problems, and maybe you can go to the some hospital in Belarus or maybe to jail we don’t know,” Tsimanouskaya said.
The athlete’s husband fled the country shortly after she said she wouldn’t be returning and was also granted a Polish visa but Tsimanouskaya said she’s concerned for her parents who are still in Belarus.
“Of course, I worry a lot about my parents who stayed in Belarus, especially as my father is sick and he has heart problems. Last few days his condition got worse,” she said.
“But I have also talked to my parents today, they told me that they are doing fine. That’s why I hope that nothing bad will happen to them.”
Belarus, a former Soviet state, has been under autocratic rule since 1994 and accused of a slew of human rights abuses, including no freedom of expression and assembly and arbitrary arrest and detention, according to Amnesty International.
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