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Poland grants Belarussian Olympian humanitarian visa

Belarussian sprinter Krystina Timanovskaya has been granted a humanitarian visa by Poland after refusing her team’s order to fly home early from the Olympics.

Timanovskaya, 24, spent last night secured in a hotel under protection before travelling to the Polish embassy in Tokyo.

She voiced fears for her safety following her criticism on her team’s coaches, saying she was forcibly taken to the airport.

With one Belarussian television channel saying she lacked “team spirit”, her criticism arose when they entered her into the 4/400m relay race at short notice after some teammates were found to be ineligible to compete.

Timanovskaya said team officials came to her room, put her under pressure to return home, and gave her an hour to pack her bags before being escorted to Tokyo’s Haneda airport. She asked the International Olympic Committee (IOC) for help.

In a video posted on the Telegram channel of the Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation, she said: “They are trying to get me out of the country without my permission.”

Anatol Kotau, a member of the IOC, told the BBC on Sunday: “She’s afraid of repression on her family in Belarus – this is the main concern for her right now.”

The Belarusian Olympic committee said Timanovskaya had been taken off the team because of her “emotional and psychological condition”.

Poland’s Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said Poland would do “whatever is necessary to help her continue her sporting career”.

The Belarusian government has not yet commented on the Polish decision.

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Jim Gell

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January 2022
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