Belarusian Olympic Sprinter to Seek Political Asylum After Refusing Order to Return Home

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya will reportedly accept asylum from Poland after her Olympic team tried to remove her from Japan

Sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus in Italy in 2019. The Olympic sprinter, who competed in the Tokyo Olympics, is currently seeking political asylum.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus at a race in Italy in 2019.
Ivan Romano/Getty

A Belarusian sprinter who refused an order to return home from the Tokyo Olympics because she didn’t feel “safe” after criticizing her country on social media is planning to seek political asylum.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who was pulled from Monday’s 200-meter event and forcibly taken to the airport by Belarusian officials, entered the Polish embassy in Tokyo on Monday, per NPR.

The 24-year-old sprinter said she believed her life was in danger after taking to her Instagram account to criticize Belarus team officials for slotting her into the 4×400 relay that is scheduled for Thursday despite never racing in the event.

“Some of our girls did not fly here to compete in the 4x400m relay because they didn’t have enough doping tests,” Tsimanouskaya told Reuters. “And the coach added me to the relay without my knowledge. I spoke about this publicly. The head coach came over to me and said there had been an order from above to remove me.”

Tsimanouskaya was able to stay in Japan after flagging down a police officer at the airport and, with assistance from the IOC, escape to the safety of a local hotel.

“We’ve received an order: you’re to fly home today,” Artur Shumak, a Belarusian sports official, allegedly told Tsimanouskaya on a leaked phone call, according to The Times of London. “If you want to continue competing for the Belarusian Republic, then listen to what you’re advised to do: come, go home to your parents, or wherever you like. And let this situation slide. Otherwise the more you twitch … You know, when a fly is caught in a spider web, the more it writhes, the more it gets stuck. That’s how life is organized … You did a stupid thing.”

Belarus president Alexander Lukashenko and his son Viktor are both banned from the Tokyo Olympics by the IOC due to complaints from athletes about facing reprisals and intimidation related to protests about the country’s disputed presidential election last August.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, which supports athletes jailed or sidelined for their political views, said Tsimanouskaya also reached out to Germany and Austria for assistance.

“We appealed to a number of countries for help,” foundation head Aliaksandra Herasimenia told Reuters. “But the first that reacted was the Polish consulate. We are ready to accept their help.”

Tsimanouskaya competed for Belarus on the first day of track events at the National Stadium in Tokyo and did not advance after placing fourth in her first-round heat in the 100 meters with a time of 11.47 seconds.

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