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Belarusian sprinter Tsimanouskaya reaches Poland after Tokyo drama

  • August 04, 2021

Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was involved in a public spat with her coaches at the Tokyo Games, arrived in the Polish capital, Warsaw, on Wednesday.

Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said the 24-year-old athlete had arrived safely in the evening after flying from Tokyo via Vienna.

Przydacz said he “wanted to thank all the Polish consular and diplomatic staff involved, who flawlessly planned and secured her safe journey.”

She flew via the Austrian capital for “security reasons,” according to Austrian minister Magnus Brunner, who greeted her at the Vienna airport.  

After her arrival there, Brunner told reporters: “She is worried about her family. She is tired, and naturally she is tense after what has happened over the past few days,” adding the athlete was also “nervous about how things will progress.”

Tsimanouskaya has said she fears reprisals in Belarus after she openly criticized a move to enter her in a race she said she had not prepared for. She also refused to board a flight home late on Sunday, saying she had been taken to the airport against her will.

Poland has since granted her a humanitarian visa.  

Vadim Krivosheyev, an activist with the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, told The Associated Press that Tsimanouskaya took the flight to Austria on the advice of Polish authorities. 

Tsimanouskaya’s husband is also due to arrive in Warsaw on Wednesday, an NGO that supports the Belarusian opposition said. 

What was the row about?

The athlete had taken to social media to complain “about the negligence of our coaches” over reportedly entering her into the 4×400 meter relay race at short notice.

Belarusian officials then barred her from competing in the 200 meter event.

They “made it clear that, upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment,” she told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview.

“There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me.”

Belarus athletics head coach Yuri Moiseevich told state TV that Tsimanouskaya was withdrawn over her “emotional, psychological state.”

But former Belarusian government minister and diplomat Pavel Latushka told DW that many ordinary Belarusians also face mistreatment on a daily basis.

“Being forced to leave the Olympic area is one of the numerous examples of repressions used by the regime against Belarusian activists and citizens,” he said.

The sprinter, who hopes to continue her athletics career in Poland, denied that she had been suffering from any medical problems.


What has been happening in Belarus?

Belarus has been gripped by political upheaval and a crackdown on dissent for nearly one year.

Strongman leader Alexander Lukashenko, once dubbed Europe’s last dictator, claimed victory in last August’s elections, which many in the country and abroad believed to have been rigged.

He has since jailed thousands of political opponents , while his opponent Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya has fled to Lithuania.

Lukashenko has ruled Belarus with an iron fist since taking power in 1994

Tsimanouskaya was one of more than 2,000 Belarusian sports figures who signed an open letter calling for new elections and for political prisoners to be freed.

But the sprinter dismissed claims made by her former teammates that she had been planning to seek asylum elsewhere long before arriving in Japan.

“Everything that is happening now absolutely wasn’t in my plans,” she said.

The International Olympic Committee said on Tuesday it had launched a formal investigation into Tsimanouskaya’s case and is demanding answers from the Belarusian team.

fb,jf/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)

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