Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, a Belarussian sprinter, flew from Tokyo to Poland via Austria on Wednesday, after days of attempting to obtain asylum in fear of being persecuted if she returned to her home country.
Tsimanouskaya, 24, boarded a flight to Vienna from Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. Officials said she will ultimately arrive in Poland, where she’s been granted a humanitarian visa.
Tsimanouskaya said two days ago that Belarusian organisers had pulled her from Olympic competition and tried to force her to return to Belarus against her will. The issue, she claims, is her criticism of Belarusian athletic officials for her treatment during the Summer Games.
Belarus, which has an autocratic regime led by President Alexander Lukashenko, has come under fire in recent months for cracking down on dissenters. The country diverted a flight in May to arrest a dissident journalist.
Tsimanouskaya competed in the women’s 100-meter dash in Tokyo and was scheduled to compete in the 200-meter dash when she was ordered home.
“We know that her training center is in Austria, and her coach is also placed in Austria,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said when asked why she left for Vienna, according to CNN. “She’s waiting for her husband to join her in Warsaw.
“So probably it will be their decision, whether they want to stay in Poland or continue any other travel to any other European state and she is very much welcome to stay in Poland.”
Tsimanouskaya also chastised Belarusian athletic officials for entering her in the women’s 4×400-meter relay, an event in which she has no previous experience, after other members of the team failed doping tests.
The Olympic sprinter’s plight isn’t the only thing drawing attention to Lukashenko’s regime this week.
Vitaly Shishov, the activist leader of a Belarus group that assists people fleeing the country, was discovered dead in Ukraine on Tuesday. He was discovered hanged in a Kiev park.
The case is being investigated as a homicide, according to authorities.
Canada’s Andre De Grasse (second from right) wins the men’s 200-meter final in 19.62 seconds on August 4. Photo by Tasos Katopodis