News and Commentary

Belarus Olympian Who Feared Returning Offered Safety In Austria, Husband Flees For Poland
NARITA, JAPAN - AUGUST 04: (EDITOR'S NOTE: Alternate crop) Belarus athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya waves at the boarding gate for Austrian Airlines 0S52 at Narita international airport on August 04, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan. Earlier this week, Belarusian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya spent a night in secure accommodation at Tokyos Haneda airport under Japanese police guard after claiming she was being forcibly returned to Belarus for criticising team coaches. Ms Timanovskaya was later granted a Polish humanitarian visa while seeking political asylum after expressing fears for her safety if she were to return to Belarus. (Photo by Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images)
Yuichi Yamazaki/Getty Images

An Olympian from Belarus, who feared being imprisoned or worse if she returned to her home country, is now safely in Austria en route to Poland, which will also shelter her husband.

As The  Daily Wire reported last week, sprinter “Krystsina Tsimanouskaya said she was removed from the Olympic team and taken to the airport in order to return to Belarus, but told Japanese authorities that she did not, in fact, want to return to her home country.”

Tsimanouskaya told Japanese authorities that she was being forced to return to Belarus because she criticized the team’s coaches and that she was being loaded onto a plane home against her will. She said later that her coaches put her in the 4×400 relay — an event she would not typically run, being a sprinter — and when she refused, she was pulled from her event, the women’s 200m.

“I am under pressure and they are trying to take me out of the country without my consent. I ask the International Olympic Committee to interfere,” she said in a video posted by Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, a non-governmental organization, per Daily Wire.

“I am afraid that in Belarus they might put me in jail. I am not afraid that I will be fired or kicked out of the national command,” she added in an interview with the media. “I am worried about my safety. And I think that at the moment it is not safe for me in Belarus.”

The Japanese were able to whisk Tsimanouskaya to safety, and she has now been offered asylum in Poland and, according to Fox News, landed safely in Vienna, Austria, on Wednesday.

“A Belarusian Olympic sprinter who said a feud with team officials made her feel she could not safely return home arrived in Austria on Wednesday, part of a journey that could see her settle in Europe to avoid reprisals from her authoritarian government,” the outlet said.

“After a stopover in Vienna, Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is expected to travel to Poland, which granted her a humanitarian visa. In a dramatic standoff at the Tokyo Games, the runner said team officials tried to force her to fly home early after she criticized them, and some European countries stepped in to offer assistance,” Fox added.

Tsimanouskaya was reportedly told to fly to Austria first by Polish security officials, according to the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, which helped to organize what appears to now be a defection. She will meet her husband, who fled Belarus after learning of his wife’s troubles, in Poland. He has also been offered a visa.

“We are very happy that she is here safe,” an Austrian official said on Wednesday. “But she is scared about her future and about her family.”

Athletes at the Tokyo Olympic Games — particularly American athletes — have been focused on demonstrating and protesting against “oppression,” even taking part in a widespread protest involving a black “X” printed on a hand or arm during competition or a medal ceremony. So far, though, it appears no American athletes have spoken out on Tsimanouskaya’s plight.

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