Krystsina Tsimanouskaya was told to pack her bags and leave The Tokyo Olympics after receiving backlash for criticising her coaches on a social media post about entering a race on short notice.
Team officials told her to excuse herself to leave early and reported that she was injured. Her two coaches have been removed from the Olympics four days after their involvement in this incident.
Though insisting that she is no political activist, the post translated poorly to the political authorities. She clarified that the criticism was targeted at Belarusian officials at the Olympics, and not a political statement, stressing that she did not betray her country, and only wanted to be allowed to run in her preferred event.
The Belarusian athlete was accused of politically shaming her country and reported to be mentally ill. She later cleared this up with BBC reporters, saying that she did not suffer from any mental health issues nor has she met with any of the doctors at the Olympic village.
She spoke with her grandmother on her journey to the airport, who then advised her not to return to Belarus due to the backlash from the news going viral.
She then sought help from the Japanese police and told the Belarusian officials that she had left something at the Olympic village and needed to return. The police eventually escorted her away from the officials.
European countries reached out to help her after the details of her journey became public and was then given police protection to safely travel to Poland, where numerous Belarusian activists are known to seek refuge in.
Reassured to see that the athlete Krystsina #Tsimanouskaya arrived safe in Poland.
One more proud Belarusian has however been forced to flee her own country due to the actions of the Lukashenko regime and Olympic truce been violated.
— Josep Borrell Fontelles (@JosepBorrellF) August 5, 2021
Tsimanouskaya was more worried for her family’s safety back in Belarus while she stays in Poland under a humanitarian visa. Her husband has since fled their home country and has also been granted a visa for Poland.
“Maybe I’ll only be able to return (to Belarus) after 5 or 10 years”.
She urges all fellow Belarusians to speak out if they are under pressure and thanks the people who have been following her story for supporting her throughout this incident.
The 24-year-old runner mentioned that she still wishes to continue her career and hopes to compete again in the Olympics.