Last Saturday, Belarusian officials attempted to force sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya to leave Tokyo. The athlete revealed yesterday that she used Google Translate to reach out to Japanese authorities and avoid the flight from the Olympics.

Tsimanouskaya has since been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland, and at a press conference yesterday, as well as an interview with Reuters, she provided more details about what happened. 

One week ago, she criticized Belarusian Olympic officials for placing her in the 4×400 meter relay after other athletes became ineligible. Tsimanouskaya was not allowed to object to the decision. As a 100 and 200 meter sprinter, it was an event (and distance) she did not train for.

In response to that criticism (posted to Instagram), she was removed from competition the next day and taken by coaches to the airport for a return to Belarus. 

Instead of complying with the attempted removal from the Tokyo Olympics, Tsimanouskaya typed that she needed help into Google Translate on her phone and showed the translation to Japanese police at the airport. Authorities subsequently gave her prospective custody with the International Olympic Committee and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also getting involved.

Google Translate launched in 2006 and started rolling out a big Neutral Machine Translation upgrade a decade later:

Instead of translating phrase-by-phrase, Google Translate with NMT converts whole sentences at a time. This added context when translating improves accuracy, with the system able to rearrange and adjust results to better reflect how humans naturally speak.

That updated capability is now widely in use across the Google Translate website and mobile apps with the service supporting over 100 languages.

More about Google Translate:

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Abner Li

Editor-in-chief. Interested in the minutiae of Google and Alphabet. Tips/talk: