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The Belarusian Coaches Who Tried To Send An Olympic Sprinter Home Are Dismissed

Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich, two coaches from Team Belarus, arrive at the airport on Friday after their Olympic credentials were revoked.
Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich, two coaches from Team Belarus, arrive at the airport on Friday after their Olympic credentials were revoked.

Two coaches from the Belarus team have been dismissed by the International Olympic Committee four days after they ordered sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya back home for publicly criticizing them.

The IOC revoked credentials for Artur Shimak and Yury Maisevich. They "were requested to leave the Olympic Village immediately and have done so," the IOC said.

In a tweet, the IOC said the move was "in the interest and wellbeing of the athletes of the [National Olympic Committee] of Belarus who are still in Tokyo."

Timanovskaya, 24, refused to board a flight back to Belarus after the coaches pulled her from Monday's 200-meter event and ordered her home from the Games.

The Belarusian Olympic Committee claimed Timanovskaya was being withdrawn from competition because of her "emotional, psychological state," but she told Reuters that she was being forced to go home because she had criticized the coaches on social media.

In a scene reminiscent of Cold War-era defections, Timanovskaya was subsequently granted a Polish humanitarian visa while seeking political asylum.

At a news conference Thursday in Warsaw, Timanovskaya said she had been angry at her coaches for wanting to run her in the 400-meter relay, a race for which she hadn't trained. She was concerned she would injure herself and jeopardize her chances in the 200-meter — her specialty.

She said she decided not to board the flight back to Belarus after speaking by telephone with her grandmother there, who warned her of critical media reports.

Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya displays an Olympic-related T-shirt with the slogan "I Just Want to Run" after her news conference Thursday in Warsaw, Poland. She arrived in Poland a day earlier fearing reprisals at home after criticizing her coaches at the Tokyo Games.
Czarek Sokolowski / AP
Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya displays an Olympic-related T-shirt with the slogan "I Just Want to Run" after her news conference Thursday in Warsaw, Poland. She arrived in Poland a day earlier fearing reprisals at home after criticizing her coaches at the Tokyo Games.

Speaking with NPR's Morning Edition, reporter Charles Maynes said: "Her criticism of her coaches was seen as criticism of the Olympic Committee in Belarus," which is run by the son of authoritarian President Alexander Lukashenko.

A year ago, mass protests rocked Belarus after Lukashenko won a sixth term in an election viewed as rigged by many Belarusians as well as the European Union and U.S. State Department.

Timanovskaya is one of 2,000 sports figures in Belarus who signed a letter calling for new elections and the release of political prisoners, according to Voice of America.

Speaking Thursday, Timanovskaya said her husband was joining her in Poland, and that together they would decide whether to seek political asylum there.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.