Europe

Medal won by exiled Belarusian sprinter auctioned to support athletes

A medal won by Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya has been sold in an online auction to support athletes in political discourse.

The silver medal won by Tsimanouskaya at the 2019 European Games fetched $21,000 (€17,800), according to the Belarusian Sports Solidarity Foundation (BSSF).

The foundation announced in a Telegram post on Friday that the medal had been sold to a buyer on eBay in the United States.

The BSSF added that the sale had attracted “a lot of interest” from collectors.

During the Tokyo Olympics, Tsimanouskaya had claimed she was being forced to return home to Belarus for publically criticising the country’s athletics federation.

The sprinter had expressed fears that she would be jailed upon arrival in Belarus and obtained protection from Japanese authorities at Haneda Airport to avoid her being forced onto a flight.

The incident generated international attention and prompted the International Olympic Committee to launch an investigation.

She was eventually granted a humanitarian visa to Poland, where she now lives in exile.

The 24-year-old athlete told Euronews that she and her husband now have bodyguards that control their daily activities.

“Every time I want to go out, I have to get permission,” Tsimanouskaya said.

“I didn’t expect it to go for such a high price,” Tsimanouskaya was quoted by the BSSF as saying on Friday, adding that she was “very happy”.

According to the BSSF, the money raised from the sale of her medal will be used to help other athletes who have “suffered”.

The foundation was created by former professional swimmer Aliaksandra Herasimenia — who is also in conflict with Minsk and living in exile — and provides financial and legal assistance to Belarusian athletes targeted by the authorities.

Since the disputed re-election of Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020, authorities have waged a harsh crackdown on opponents and independent media.

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