Belarusian Sprinter Speaks Out

'I don’t think I can ever go back to Belarus,' says Krystsina Tsimanouskaya
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 3, 2021 10:00 AM CDT
Belarusian Sprinter Speaks Out
In this photo taken from video, Belarus Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya speaks during a video interview with the Associated Press in Japan Tuesday.   (AP Photo/Daniel Kozin)

The Belarus sprinter who is refusing to go home has given her first interviews since the Olympic controversy erupted. In them, 24-year-old Krystsina Tsimanouskaya makes clear that she hopes to run in future Olympics, though not for her native country. Coverage:

  • “I don’t think I can ever go back to Belarus," Tsimanouskaya tells the Wall Street Journal. “I dreamed for five years for these Olympic Games,” she adds. “I’m still young and have a lot of chances. I want to go to my next Olympics.”
  • In that interview and another with the AP, Tsimanouskaya says she won't return to Belarus because authorities told her she faces punishment there. For starters, she says she would be kicked off the national team. “There were also thinly disguised hints that more would await me." As both stories note, controversial Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko has long been accused of handling dissenters with brutal force.

  • US Secretary of State Antony Blinken weighed in on the controversy Monday night. "The Lukashenka regime sought to commit another act of transnational repression: attempting to force Olympian Krystsyna Tsimanouskaya to leave simply for exercising free speech," he tweeted. "Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated."
  • Tsimanouskaya's trouble began when she criticized her team's managers on social media during the Games. For example, she said they ordered her at the last minute to run the 4x400 relay even though she had never competed in that event. After she balked and was barred from running her 200-meter race, Belarus authorities brought her to the airport and tried to make her fly home. She refused, sought international help, and is now inside the Polish embassy in Tokyo. Poland has granted her a humanitarian visa, and she is expected to fly to Warsaw soon.
  • “For now I just want to safely arrive in Europe ... meet with people who have been helping me and make a decision what to do next,” she tells the AP. She also wants an investigation into the actions of her coach, and the Guardian reports that the International Olympic Committee has indeed launched an inquiry. The IOC has demanded that Belarus' Olympic committee submit a report by Tuesday.
  • Tsimanouskaya is only the latest in a long line of Olympic defectors, and Quartz has background on that.
(Read more defectors stories.)

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