Belarusian sprinter who defected aims to compete for Poland

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who defected to Poland during the Tokyo Olympic Games has told the Russian broadcaster RBK TV that she plans to stay in Poland and to compete for the country.

Fearing for her safety, Ms Tsimanouskaya sought and found sanctuary in Warsaw following her refusal to obey her coaches’ order to return to Belarus from Japan following a dispute.

"We are now going to try to change my sporting nationality so that I can compete for the Polish national team," said Ms Tsimanouskaya, adding that she hoped to speed up the process, which usually takes up to three years.

The Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport has already offered the runner the possibility to pursue her athletics career in Poland. She has also joined the Orlen Sports Team, which brings together the best athletes and includes Olympic medalists from Tokyo.

Belarus is enduring a sweeping crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year in August over a disputed, and very likely rigged, election that secured a sixth tenure for the years-long president of Belarus, also dubbed “the last dictator of Europe”, Alyaksandr Lukashenka.