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In a plot ready made for a Liam Neeson movie, an Olympic sprinter’s country tried to forcibly remove her from Tokyo for speaking out against team officials before the Polish government stepped in. Fortunately, sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is safe in a Polish embassy, and a very particular set of Liam Neeson’s skills were not required.
Tsimanouskaya alleged on social media that team officials insisted she pack her belongings and fly back to Belarus against her will. Tsimanouskaya was taken to the Tokyo airport by team officials but refused to board the plane. Soon afterwards, she alerted the International Olympic Committee that she feared for her safety.
In a recorded video, Tsimanouskaya said: “I was put under pressure and they are trying to forcibly take me out of the country without my consent.”
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsymanouskaya was forced by the regime to leave the @Olympics in Tokyo & fly to Belarus after criticizing Belarus' management of the national team during the games. She's afraid to come back to Minsk. No athlete should be forced this way. pic.twitter.com/1Ros5scrJG
— Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya (@Tsihanouskaya) August 1, 2021
The Polish embassy was quick to react to the sprinter’s fear. Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydac announced that Tsimanouskaya was granted a humanitarian visa and is safe within their embassy. “She’s in the Polish embassy, safe and in quite good condition,” said Przydacz per Reuters. “…The Polish embassy is well-protected in Tokyo.”
Her status for the remainder of the Games is unknown, but now safe, she could actually compete under another flag. On behalf of the Polish government, Przydac said Tsimanouskaya can continue her athletic career in Poland if she so chooses. Pawel Milewski, a Polish ambassador in Tokyo, has met with the sprinter and provided encouraging news. “She is tired, feared but very grateful for our help at this extremely difficult time of her sport career,” commented Milewski.
Belarus has previously threatened lives and jailed athletes who have spoken unfavorably of the country.
Alexander Opeikin, a spokesperson for the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation told the Associated Press that Tsimanouskaya’s life could have very well been in danger had she not reached out for help. “The campaign was quite serious, and that was a clear signal that her life would be in danger in Belarus,” suggested Opeikin.
Tsimanouskaya had been scheduled to run the 200 meters on Monday and the 4×400-meter relay later this week.