Belarusian defector Tsimanouskaya says she has taken Polish citizenship

Athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who defected from Belarus during the Tokyo 2021 Olympics, has stated in an Instagram post that she has been granted Polish citizenship.

“Today I give you my word that I will try 100 percent to show my full potential and even if I am on the podium as a Pole, you know that this medal will be for all Belarusians and for our freedom. Long live Belarus! Thank you Poland,” she wrote.

Tsimanouskaya fled to Poland after being kicked out of the Olympics a year ago after a falling out with her coaches.

The sprinter has become a symbol of resistance in Belarus, where critics of leader Alexander Lukashenko have been jailed or forced to flee abroad after he cracked down on mass protests over 2020 elections that the opposition said were rigged.

In an interview with Reuters this month, Tsimanouskaya said she hopes to compete in the Paris 2024 Olympics in the 200 meters, the event she was scheduled to run in Tokyo the day after Belarus was removed from the team.