The Belarusian Olympic sprinter who ran away from her team after being ordered home from the Tokyo Games says she only decided to defect on the way to Tokyo’s airport after a call from her grandmother. “Grandmother called me when they were already driving me to the airport,” Krystsina Tsimanouskaya told Reuters. “Literally, I had some 10 seconds. She called me, all that she told me was: ‘Please do not come back to Belarus, it’s not safe’... That’s it, she hung up.”
The 24-year-old, who was ordered home after criticizing her coaches on Instagram, was speaking Thursday in Warsaw, where she has taken refuge, but said that she was still hoping to return to her homeland if it was safe. She told Reuters she was given 40 minutes to pack her bags late on Sunday before heading to the Narita airport, where she asked police for protection. “They did not expect that in the airport I can approach the police. They think that we are scared to make a move, that we are afraid to speak, afraid to tell the truth to the whole world. But I am not afraid,” she said, adding that her family had feared she would be put in a psychiatric ward if she returned home.