Belarus as a country has been in the news for the better part of the year not necessarily for the right reasons. This is not to say it isn’t a great sporting country, not by any stretch. They have a tennis player in the top TWO OF THE WORLD according to the latest WTA rankings and they have a fantastic gymnastics culture. How ever their politics have often soiled what is otherwise a great country which emerged after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early nineties. One of the biggest stories to come out of this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympics was the defection of a relatively unknown (until recently) track and field athlete called Krystsina Tsimanouskya from the politically charged country. Now, political defections by sportspersons are not anything brand new, the likes of Martina Navratilova defected from the then Czechoslovakia in the height of the cold war in 1975. But this defection raises a few eyebrows not because it lacked merit but the fact of the matter is that Krystsina is not a political activist. So what really happened in Tokyo?
According to Tsimanouskaya, Belarussian coaches had withdrawn her from the Games citing doctor’s orders on the grounds of psychological and emotional distress. Krystsina went to the coach on 1 August and said she was ready to compete in the 200 meter dash. That’s when coach fantastic made the call to head office and was instructed to send Krystsina packing and on her way back to Minsk. That is when the athlete smelled a rat and decided to notify authorities at the airport. It is very much possible for her to have been targeted because of being associated with a state enemy. We have seen it happen in North Korea with their “generational punishment”. This is whereby your friends and relatives will receive punishment for the “misdeeds” of a relative who does not share the state’s ideology.
Although not in the same bracket of severity, the actions of the coach point out to similar. The fact that her grandmother warned her before hand points to the fact that she knew something was up there. Another real possibility is that Tsimanouskaya wants further her career where there are great facilities and opportunities which is not something we can blame her. Poland where she has been granted asylum has great athletics coaches, winning nine medals in Tokyo in athletics. Whatever happened in the Belarussian camp in Tokyo should serve as a warning to the IOC that not all of their members are on the right side of the Human Rights line. As such it may not be the wisest decision to ban the entire country from future games on the word of one athlete, more monitoring needs to happen at Games such as surprise visits and interviews in the athlete’s village