Exiled in Poland, Belarusian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya auctions off her European Games medal, gets $21,000 and the buyer donates it to a museum

The athlete, who refused to return to Minsk from Tokyo, hopes to compete for Poland in Paris 2024, although she may face a difficult process with the Olympic cycle shortened to three years and the likely position of the Belarusian Federation.

Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya poses during an interview in Warsaw, Poland. EFE/ Andrzej Lange
Belarusian athlete Krystsina Tsimanouskaya poses during an interview in Warsaw, Poland. EFE/ Andrzej Lange

In the scant month and a half that Belarusian Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been a refugee in Poland, every day offers her a different story.

In the most recent chapter of her adventure as an exile, the Belarusian offered at auction her silver medal as part of the 4x100-meter relay, won at the European Games in Minsk 2019.

The medal has just been bought for $21,000 by a person who moved from Kiev, Ukraine, to the United States 30 years ago and who calls himself Evgeny, according to the site belsat.eu.

Evgeny, after talking to the athlete, decided to donate the medal to a so-called “Museum of Free Belarus,” which will display the medal in traveling exhibitions around Poland, reported an entity known as the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation, which especially associates sanctioned athletes

“I wanted to personally meet and talk to the person who, having bought it, decided to support me and all repressed sportsmen,” said Tsimanouskaya

Evgeny clarified on the Pikabu site that he was not involved in politics, he was not a Belarusian, nor an athlete, nor a collector, and that it was only an action of solidarity with people like him and his family who one day found themselves in a foreign country where there were people who helped them “without expecting anything in return”.

The buyer hopes that “the donation will reach those who really need it”.

The medal was sold on eBay, a leading site for auctioning and e-commerce of goods over the Internet.

On August 4, Tsimanouskaya arrived in Poland from Tokyo preceded by a huge international media campaign after refusing to return to her country.

According to her own statements, after a conflict with athletics officials and the heads of her delegation at the Olympic Games, she had to be sent back to Belarus against her will. She had already spread the dispute on social networks which, in her opinion, uncovered the government’s discomfort.

At Narita airport, she did not board the plane to Minsk and requested the help of the Japanese police and the IOC. Poland granted him a humanitarian visa while the IOC launched an investigation and expelled two Belarusian coaches from the Olympic Village.

In recent months, the international Olympic body had already taken several measures against the National Olympic Committee headed by Alexander Lukashenko, president of the former Soviet republic since 1994.

Lukashenko had to step down as president of the NOC and his son took his place, which did not go down well with the IOC either.

According to the German media “Welt am Sonntag”, Tsimanouskaya, 24, has already submitted the necessary documents to obtain Polish citizenship.

The runner lives in Warsaw with her husband, who managed to leave Belarus via Ukraine, and both are in a heavily guarded place with six bodyguards, according to her.

Tsimanouskaya has commented that she wants to start running through Poland as soon as possible. The sprinter hopes to be able to participate in the 2024 Paris Olympics.

At the moment, this illusion seems complex, as the International Athletics Federation requires that at least three years must pass before an athlete can perform internationally for her new country.

An agreement between the parties involved does not seem likely if the consent of the Federation or the Belarusian Olympic Committee is involved. Some experts have begun to speculate about “political circumstances” of the case that could be mitigating for Tsimanouskaya.

The Lukashenko regime, through its official media, has not reserved strong attacks against the athlete whom it accuses of staging a “shameful farce”, and also against the IOC.

Eleven days after arriving in Poland, Tsimanouskaya took part in her first competition. She did so at the Wiesław Maniak Memorial in Szczecin.

She ran in 100 and 200 meters and took third positions, events won by one of the best local runners, Pia Skrzyszowska.

In 2015, she finished sixth in the 100m race at the European Youth Championships in Eskilstuna. Two years later, at that distance and same category she was silver.

In 2019 she won the 200m race at the Universiade in Naples. She has also participated in the European and World Senior Championships, both outdoors and indoors.

The Belarusian athlete has been accepted by Orlen Sports Group, which caters to top Polish athletes, which will make it easier for her to continue her sports career, a decision that came after her meeting with Piotr Gliński, Minister of Culture, National Heritage and Sports.

At the meeting, the decision was made that the athlete would be under the care of the Polish Athletics Association and would receive a sports scholarship plus financial support from sponsors.

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