Belarus sprinter who defected hopes to run for Poland

Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who defected during the Tokyo Olympics this month says she plans to apply for Polish sporting citizenship so that she can run for Poland.

The 24-year-old athlete was taken in by Warsaw when her coaches told her to return to Belarus from Japan following a dispute, an order she refused to obey fearing for her safety.

This is an interview she had with Russian broadcaster RBC which aired late on Wednesday (August 18):

Host: "What's next? You said you will take some rest, after that when you return to competing will you continue under the Belarusian flag, as a Belarusian sportswoman?"

Tsimanouskaya: “No, we are now going to try and change my sporting citizenship so that I can compete for the Polish national team. But this is a lengthy process and one of the conditions of such citizenship change is a sports quarantine which normally takes three years. But we will ask for this quarantine to be shortened for me because it is an unusual situation. I have not been planning to change citizenship but the situation has forced me to do so, it is a necessary measure. I have decided to stay in Poland and compete for the Polish national team."

Host: "So within the next three years, at least, you have no plans to return to Belarus?"

Tsimanouskaya: "How do I explain this? I would love to return but I will only do it when I am sure it will be safe for me."

Belarus has been gripped by a sweeping crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.

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