Belarusian sprinter Kristina Timanovskaya was set to compete in the women's 200 meters at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday, with hopes that her hard work would catapult her onto the awards podium. Instead, she has been thrust into the global spotlight for her moves off the track.
According to Timanovskaya, representatives of the Belarus national team tried to forcibly send her back to her home country after she criticized sporting authorities in an Instagram post on Friday. The 24-year-old athlete, citing fear she might be jailed, refused to board the flight from Japan on Monday -- and was granted a humanitarian visa from Poland that same day.
Her Instagram post was not explicitly political, but Belarusian athletes have faced retaliation, been detained, and excluded from national teams for criticizing the government following mass protests last year against strongman president Alexander Lukashenko. The Belarusian National Olympic Committee has said that Timanovskaya was withdrawn from the Games due to her "emotional and psychological state."