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Krystsina Tsimanouskaya: Belarusian athlete who fled Lukashenko becomes Polish citizen

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By Euronews
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is now living in exile in Poland after refusing to return to Belarus.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya is now living in exile in Poland after refusing to return to Belarus.   -   Copyright  WOJTEK RADWANSKI / AFP

The Belarusian sprinter who defected after refusing to go home from the Tokyo Olympics says she has been given Polish citizenship.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya sought asylum in Poland after defying orders to leave Japan during last summer's postponed games.

In a post on Instagram, the 25-year-old confirmed that she had formally become a Polish citizen in late June.

"Last Saturday was the Polish Team Championships where I won the individual 100m and our team came second," Tsimanouskaya wrote.

"It was my first official competition in which I took part not as a Belarusian but as a Polish woman. Finally, after such a long time I can go out on the track and represent ... without any obstacles.

"I'm looking forward to representing Poland on the international stage, but for now, I'd like to thank everyone who has helped me in this most difficult year for me," she added.

Tsimanouskaya became a symbol of Belarusian dissidents when she refused orders to return to her country of birth after criticising the country's athletics federation.

The athlete said that she had "feared for her life" after she refused to participate in an event that she had not trained for.

The incident prompted the International Olympic Committee to launch an investigation.

Since defecting to Poland with her husband under a humanitarian visa, she has worked to help other Belarusian athletes who have wanted to leave the country.

Tsimanouskaya cannot yet represent Poland in international competitions without approval from the World Athletics Federation.

The 25-year-old has expressed hope that, after three years of legal residence in Poland, she will be able to compete for her new country at the 2024 Olympics in Paris.

"Even if I get on the podium as a Pole, let everyone know that the medals will be for all Belarusians and for our freedom," she wrote on social media.

Watch Euronews' 2021 interview with Tsimanouskaya

Belarus has been banned from competing at most international sports events for its support of Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Additional sources • EFE