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Olympics-IOC looking into gesture by Saunders, Belarusian sprinter enters Polish embassy

·4-min read

By Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber, Karolos Grohmann and Amy Tennery

TOKYO (Reuters) - Political tension played out around a Belarusian sprinter at the Tokyo Games on Monday while organisers said they were looking into a gesture by U.S. shot putter Raven Saunders, a potential breach of rules banning protests on medal podiums.

But amid the politics, Puerto Rico's Jasmine Camacho-Quinn dazzled in the 100 metres hurdles, and Miltiadis Tentoglou of Greece won the men's long jump in a spectacular final leap

The International Olympic Committee is looking into the gesture Saunders made after the shot put silver medallist raised her arms in an X above her head on Sunday, IOC spokesperson Mark Adams told a briefing. Saunders later said the gesture was intended as a sign of support for the downtrodden.

The IOC forbids overt political expression or interference, but last month relaxed its Rule 50 that prevents athletes from any protest to allow gestures on the field, provided athletes do so without disruption and with respect for fellow competitors.

However, the threat of sanctions remain if any protests are made on the podium during the medal ceremony.

"Let them try and take this medal," Saunders said in a late night post on social media in an apparent reference to the IOC's rules restricting protests.

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who refused to board a flight after she said she was taken to the airport by her team against her wishes, entered the Polish embassy in Tokyo. She was seeking asylum in Poland according to a member of the local Belarusian community in touch with her.

The IOC said she was "safe and secure" in Tokyo.

The Games are in their ninth day. China is ahead on the medals tally with 24 golds, followed by the United States at 20 and Japan at 17.


The Games are taking place without spectators and under strict measures to prevent the spread of the pandemic, an unprecedented event in the history of the modern Olympics.

They have already been complicated by public opposition, as polls have shown that most Japanese oppose holding the Games amid the worsening pandemic.

Athletes, however, continue to dazzle with their performances, with Camacho-Quinn winning the first Olympic gold medal in athletics for Puerto Rico at the Games.

On Monday, she exploded off the blocks to finish in 12.37 seconds despite hitting one hurdle, beating American world record holder Kendra Harrison who came in second with 12.52.

"At this point I was really running for the world record. I hit the hurdle, but everything happens for a reason. I came through with the gold. My first gold medal," said Camacho-Quinn, who broke the Olympic record in her semi-final a day earlier.


In the men's long jump, Tentoglou won in spectacular fashion as he leapt 8.41 metres in his final attempt to snatch the gold medal from Cuba's Juan Miguel Echevarria.

Tentoglou was the world leader coming into Tokyo with an 8.60 metre leap at a domestic competition in May, but struggled to find his form and was outside the medals positions as he hit the runway for the final time.

"What an incredible competition. What an incredible jump, the last jump," the Greek said after winning his country's first ever gold for the long jump.

Among another great come-back of the Games, Dutchwoman Sifan Hassan staged a brilliant recovery after she tumbled and fell in her 1,500 metres heat, pushing hard to win the race and keeping her dream of an unprecedented treble - adding the 1,500m event to her 5,000m and 10,000m runs.

(Reporting by Reuters Olympics Team; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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