While some Olympians can close out the Tokyo games by returning to their home countries and enjoying the fruits of their labor, others live in fear.
Krystsina Tsimanouskaya of Belarus is one such Olympian. During this year’s Olympics in Tokyo, her team leaders removed her from the roster–even going as far as to take her to the airport on August 1 against her wishes.
This reportedly occurred because Tsimanouskaya had been caught criticizing her team’s coaches for “negligence.” While this criticism had nothing to do with the political state of Belarus, it was apparently enough to make powerful political leaders in her country want her to stop representing them.
So, they decided to kick the 24-year-old sprinter off the team just before she was supposed to run the 200m race. Not only were her Olympic dreams dashed, but now, her own government leaders saw her as a threat.
Tsimanouskaya refused to board the flight that was supposed to take her back to Belarus, as she feared for her safety if she went back to her home country. She has said that she believes the orders to remove her from the team came from “high up” in Belarus, where political turmoil has been brewing for over a year.
Reports say that Tsimanouskaya has since sought refuge in Poland.
Grandmother Warned Her Not to Return Home
Tsimanouskaya did not return to Belarus under the direction of her trusted family members, including her grandmother, who feared Tsimanouskaya would be sent to a prison or a psychiatric ward if she were to come home. This is because after Tsimanouskaya’s criticism of her coaches, she could be subject to punishment or revenge.
Now, Tskimanouskaya is auctioning off a medal she won in the 2019 European Games. The money made from the sale of the medal will support athletes who say they have been targeted by authorities.
At the time of writing, the medal is going for at least $21,000. Tskimanouskaya is also being supported by Polish authorities, who are happy to help her seek safety in their country until she feels she can return to Belarus without dear.
On August 4, Franak Viacorka wrote on Twitter alongside a photo of the young sprinter, “Krystsina Tsimanouskaya arrived safely in Warsaw. She was warmly welcomed. Let’s hope this horror will end soon and Krystsina, as well as thousands of other exiled Belarusians, will be able to return home, to free and democratic Belarus.”
Why She’s Selling Her Medal
Tsimanouskaya never wanted to be a political advocate, but her fear for her life has made her want to stand up for other athletes in similar positions.
The sale of the medal will help other athletes who have been silenced or oppressed by the countries they represent.
The particular medal Tsimaouskaya is selling is also quite special to her.
“Those competitions were extremely important for me as they were held at the home arena,” she said. “Lots of people, including my family and relatives, came to cheer for me.”
Selling a medal that means so much to her in order to help fellow athletes faced with similarly devastating situations is a real testament to Tsimanouskaya’s character. While the officials in Belarus ripped her from the chance to pursue her Olympic dreams for her country, they could not stop her from inspiring the world with her bravery.