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2 Aug, 2021 09:44

‘We got signals something was going on’: Belarus coach says Timanovskaya ‘behaving strangely’ at Olympics before flight scandal

‘We got signals something was going on’: Belarus coach says Timanovskaya ‘behaving strangely’ at Olympics before flight scandal

Belarusian athlete Kristina Timanovskaya was “behaving strangely” at the Tokyo Games and “maybe planned something,” according to national team head coach Yuri Moisevich, who was speaking after the runner refused to return home.

Sprinter Timanovskaya, 24, is at the center of a growing scandal after refusing to board a flight in Tokyo, having been ordered home by Belarusian team officials.

The runner had been due to compete in Monday’s 200m but placed herself under the protection of local police and spent Sunday night in a hotel at a Tokyo airport.

Timanovskaya had already competed in her 100m heat on Friday, finishing fourth, but triggered the scandal when she took to social media to complain about her unexpected inclusion in the 4x400m relay after some of her teammates were deemed ineligible, also accusing Belarusian officials of incompetence.

The runner has since said she fears for her safety if she returns home and is reportedly seeking asylum in Poland.

Also on rt.com Belarusian athlete Timanovskaya ‘safe & secure’ in Tokyo after refusing to fly home as Polish & Czech officials offer help

However, Belarusian officials have said they wanted to send the athlete home due to her “emotional and psychological condition.”

Moisevich, the head of the Belarusian athletics team in Tokyo, discussed what he called Timanovskaya’s “strange” actions in the period leading up to the scandal.

“Based on her results, it was clear that something was going on with her. We reported that the situation here isn’t easy: the pandemic, taking tests every day. In general, it’s not easy,” Moisevich was quoted by Tribuna as saying.   

“Her behavior stood out. She was withdrawn, didn’t want to communicate. You know, this is a young team, you can’t fool them. We got signals that something was going on with her.

“And what happened with the application for the (4x400m race)… Usually athletes react calmly to that. They find out immediately or later on from the officials.

"We’re scattered around all the different places here. Her behavior was strange, that it immediately caused some kind of reaction. We didn’t expect it."

“We already said that we have a difficult situation with relay. At the meeting we discussed this, and all the athletes understood the situation, there were no questions. But it seemed that something was wrong with her…," Moisevich added. 

“These are the Olympic Games. This is a very difficult competition. In front of the whole world. It was decided to send her home with part of the delegation that was leaving today. Send her home and then calmly assess, figure out what’s happening.

“Unfortunately, it turned out the way it turned out. In general, it’s strange. We didn't even expect it. But, having already compared all these aspects, we understand that, maybe, Timanovskaya planned something.”

Also on rt.com ‘I am worried about my safety’: Athlete fears she will go to jail if she returns to Belarus, could seek asylum in Germany, Austria

The row has reached international diplomatic levels, after foreign ministry officials from Poland and the Czech Republic both publicly offered Timanovskaya sanctuary.

Officials from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Monday that the athlete had assured them that she was “safe and secure” in Tokyo after spending the night in a hotel at Haneda airport.

They will discuss further steps with Timanovskaya, and have also asked the Belarusian National Olympic Committee for a full explanation.

Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko has faced accusations of clamping down on dissidents in his homeland – including athletes – after being reelected amid protests last year.

The IOC barred Lukashenko from attending this year’s Games in Tokyo and has also refused to recognize the election of his son, Viktor, as head of the National Olympic Committee of Belarus.