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I UNDERSTAND
English Section

Belarusian Olympian Tsimanouskaya "glad to be safe" in Poland

05.08.2021 20:30
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the Belarusian sprinter who refused to fly home early from the Olympics and was offered help by Poland, said on Thursday she was glad to be safe in Warsaw.
Audio
  • Belarusian Olympian Tsimanouskaya "glad to be safe" in Poland
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya attends a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya attends a news conference in Warsaw on Thursday.Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

Speaking to reporters a day after arriving in the Polish capital, Tsimanouskaya described how she was told by team officials in the Olympic Village to feign injury and return to Belarus—or else she "will have problems."

The runner also appealed to her compatriots to "stop being afraid."

On Sunday, Belarusian sports officials tried to force Tsimanouskaya to fly home early from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, which she claims was a form of punishment because she had criticised her coaches.

After being taken, against her will, to the airport for a flight to Minsk via Istanbul, Tsimanouskaya sought police protection so she would not have to board the plane.

On Monday, she was granted a Polish humanitarian visa at Poland's embassy in Tokyo.

Polish diplomats also offered to help her travel to the country. She arrived in Warsaw under Polish diplomatic protection on Wednesday evening, having first reached Vienna.

'I am grateful' to Poland

At Thursday's press conference, Tsimanouskaya thanked the Polish foreign ministry, the Polish prime minister's office and the country's diplomatic service as well as the Japanese authorities for allowing her to fly from Japan to Poland.

"I am glad to be safe," the Olympian said in Warsaw on Thursday afternoon.

"I am grateful to Poland's diplomatic service and the government," she added.

Photo: Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

At the Olympics, team officials had urged her "to say I am injured and want to return to Belarus," or else "I might have problems back home," she told reporters.

Tsimanouskaya said she decided not to come back after a phone call from her grandmother, who warned her it was "not safe" to return as state-controlled media were attacking her.

'I feel safe being here'

Asked whether she would apply for political asylum in Poland, Tsimanouskaya replied she hadn't considered it and wished to focus on continuing her sporting career in the country.

Photo: Photo: PAP/Radek Pietruszka

"We have chosen Poland because I have also talked to my parents, who said it might be the best option for me," she explained.

Given the proximity of the two countries, "maybe they will be able to visit me here, so that we can meet each other at least from time to time," she added.

Tsimanouskaya said she felt "much better" after landing in Poland.

"I feel safe being here," she told reporters. “Many people are supporting me here."

She added she was waiting for her husband, who was "already on his way to Poland."

Tsimanouskaya told the news conference that the controversy at the Olympics “broke out totally unexpectedly,” disrupting her sporting schedule, as well as plans to continue to work and study in Belarus.

She said she would make fresh plans for the future together with her husband.

'Hopefully we can stay'

"Hopefully we can stay in Poland, carry on with my career and my husband will find a job here," the runner added.

Tsimanouskaya revealed she was "very concerned" about the safety of her parents, who remained in Belarus.

"They told me everything is fine, so I hope nothing bad will happen to them," she said.

Asked whether she had any message for her compatriots, the sprinter answered she was "ready to help people who may find themselves in a similar situation to mine, or who want to leave Belarus."

‘Stop being afraid’

"I would also like to tell all Belarusians to stop being afraid and, if they are being pressured, to talk about it openly," she stated.

(pm/gs)

Source: PAP