When Krystsina Tsimanouskaya took to social media to criticise her country’s decision to enter her into the 4×400 meter relay, a race she is unfamiliar with, she was suddenly and abruptly dropped from the team and ordered to return home to Belarus.
Having already come fourth in the women’s 100m sprint heats on July 30 and due to participate in the women’s 200m heats and 4x400m relay, her Olympic journey came to a crashing halt. She was fore-warned by her family that it wasn’t safe to return home and instructed to avoid leaving Tokyo if possible.
The 24-year-old has now landed in Poland after being provided with a humanitarian visa alongside her husband and has effectively had to flee from her home country to start a new life somewhere new.
Krystsina says that she had been taken to the airport in Tokyo against her will and had managed to escape from team officials by using Google Translate to get help from the Japanese police.
“This is the latest sign of what Belarus-watchers say is the nervous insecurity of a leader who has ruled with authoritarian zeal for 27 years but fears time may be running out.”NBC News
Tsimanouskaya said she chose to start over in Poland in hope of being able to continue her career in sport, something she is passionate about and has dedicated years of her life to. She has also said to the press that she has chosen to seek refuge somewhere that her parents would be able to visit in the future.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has launched an investigation into her case and demanded that Belarus respond to allegations that officials tried to bundle her on a flight back to Minsk for her criticism of them on social media.
“The Belarusian government has signalled that it will defend a decision to remove Tsimanouskaya from the games, claiming that she had an emotional breakdown.”The Guardian
The NOC, Belarus’ Olympic Committee, was accused earlier this year of discriminating against athletes who criticised the regime of Aleksander Lukashenko following his re-election as president in August last year.
The president, and his son Viktor who is the president of the Belarusian Olympic committee, were barred by the IOC from attending the Tokyo Games earlier this year.
Where is Belarus?
Belarus is a country located in Eastern Europe, bordering Russia on its east and northeast side, Ukraine on the south, Poland to the west and Latvia and Lithuania located to the northwest of the country.