Belarusian sprinter who defected aims to compete for Poland

Marcin Bielecki/PAP

A Belarusian sprinter who defected to Poland during the Tokyo Olympic Games has told the Russian television network RBK TV that she plans to stay in Poland and to compete for the country.

Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, 24, was taken in by Warsaw when, fearing for her safety, she refused to obey an order from her coaches to return to Belarus from Japan following a dispute.

"We are now going to try to change my sporting nationality so that I can compete for the Polish national team," said Tsimanouskaya. She added that she hopes to speed up the procedure, which usually takes up to three years.

The Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport has already offered the runner the possibility to continue her athletic career in Poland. She has also joined the Orlen Sports Team, which brings together the best athletes and includes Olympic medalists from Tokyo.

Belarus is enduring a sweeping crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.