Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya came to Tokyo with dreams of Olympic glory, a chance to turn years of training into the once-in-a-lifetime jubilation of a podium appearance, maybe even a gold medal. But as the Summer Olympics wind to a close, the 24-year-old finds herself in exile in Warsaw, afraid to return to her homeland, fearful of what Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko has in store for her.
Tsimanouskaya’s whirlwind journey from Tokyo to Warsaw began with a simple expression of free speech — she criticized how Belarusian officials were managing the track team. Belarusian officials whisked her off to a Tokyo airport, she said, and tried to forcibly board her on a plane to Istanbul. Tsimanouskaya refused, sought the protection of Japanese airport security, and with the help of Western governments, flew to Vienna and then Warsaw.
It’s easy to see why Tsimanouskaya dreads a fate in Lukashenko’s hands.