‘I Was Just Afraid For My Life’: Belarusian Athlete Receives Visa From Poland After Refusing To Fly Home From Olympics

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Harry Wilmerding Contributor
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A Belarusian Olympic athlete who refused to fly home on Sunday said that she would never return to her native country fearing punishment, multiple sources reported.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a 24-year-old sprinter, received a humanitarian visa from the Polish embassy in Japan on Monday and plans to travel to Warsaw as soon as Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reported.

“I was just afraid for my life, afraid to go to jail,” Tsimanouskaya told the WSJ. “I don’t think I can ever go back to Belarus.”

Belarus team officials forced Tsimanouskaya to the airport in an attempt to fly her home after she publicly criticized national team officials, the WSJ reported. Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight and instead went to the Polish embassy in Japan for help.

Tsimanouskaya complained after she was entered on the 4×400 relay because she has never competed in the event before, the WSJ reported. (RELATED: Terrible TV Ratings For Olympics Leave NBC, Advertisers Worried: Report)

“As a professional athlete it was a shock because I had never run 400 meters,” she told the WSJ. “I could get injured. I don’t know what could have happened.”

Belarus team officials “made it clear that upon return home, I would definitely face some form of punishment,” Tsimanouskaya told the Associated Press.

Tsimanouskaya plans to continue her athletic career and will be preparing for the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics, according to the WSJ.

Tsimanouskaya’s husband has arrived in Ukraine, and the two plan to meet in Poland, the WSJ reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, who claimed victory in an election many western countries considered illegitimate, “sought to commit another act of transnational repression,” by trying to force Tsimanouskaya to fly home, the WSJ reported.

“Such actions violate the Olympic spirit, are an affront to basic rights, and cannot be tolerated,” Blinken said in a tweet.

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