By Harry Wilmerding –
A Belarusian Olympic athlete who refused to fly home on Sunday said that she would never return to her native country fearing punishment, multiple sources reported.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, received a humanitarian visa from the Polish embassy in Japan on Monday and plans to travel to Warsaw as soon as Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.
“I was just afraid for my life, afraid to go to jail,” Tsimanouskaya told the WSJ. “I don’t think I can ever go back to Belarus.”
Belarus team officials forced Tsimanouskaya to the airport in an attempt to fly her home after she publicly criticized national team officials, the WSJ reported. Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight and instead went to the Polish embassy in Japan for help.
Grateful to #IOC for the quick reaction to the situation with the Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsymanouskaya. She has a right to international protection & to continue participation in the @Olympics. It is also crucial to investigate Belarus’ NOC violations of athletes’ rights. pic.twitter.com/QQHuhgcYqs
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) August 1, 2021
Tsimanouskaya complained after she was entered on the 4×400 relay because she has never competed in the event before, the WSJ reported.
“As a professional athlete it was a shock because I had never run 400 meters,” she told the WSJ. “I could get injured. I don’t know what could have happened.”
Belarus team officials “made it clear that upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment,” Tsimanouskaya told the Associated Press.
Tsimanouskaya plans to continue her athletic career and will be preparing for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, according to the WSJ.
Tsimanouskaya’s husband has arrived in Ukraine, and the two plan to meet in Poland, the WSJ reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed victory in an election many western countries considered illegitimate, “sought to commit another act of transnational repression,” by trying to force Tsimanouskaya to fly home, the WSJ reported.
The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: attempting to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising free speech. Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated.
— Secretary Antony Blinken (@SecBlinken) August 3, 2021
“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated,” Blinken said in a tweet.
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Author: Harry Wilmerding
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