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Belarusian Sprinter Sells Silver Medal For $21,000, Will Use Money To Help Other Athletes

An anonymous buyer purchased Krystsina Tsimanouskaya's silver medal for $21,000.
An anonymous buyer purchased Krystsina Tsimanouskaya's silver medal for $21,000.

An anonymous buyer from the United States has purchased a medal from Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, the Belarusian sprinter who appealed for international help to avoid being forced home prematurely from the Tokyo Olympics by the country's authoritarian leaders.

The Belarusian Sport Solidarity Foundation (BSSF) said on its Telegram channel that a silver medal Tsimanouskaya won at the 2019 European Games attracted a "lot of interest" before selling to the unnamed buyer for $21,000 after starting the auction at $5,000.

"The medal has now been sold and paid for by a buyer from the U.S. with a very solid track record of transactions on eBay," the BSSF, a nongovernmental organization dedicated to helping opposition athletes, said.

The BSSF said Tsimanouskaya plans to use the money raised in the sale to help other athletes who find themselves suffering a similar fate to hers.

Tsimanouskaya took refuge in the Polish Embassy in Tokyo on August 2 after refusing to allow Belarusian team officials to force her onto a flight to Minsk after she criticized them. Two days later, she boarded a plane to Europe, reaching Warsaw via a stopover in Vienna.

Poland has granted the sprinter and her husband, who fled to Poland via Ukraine, humanitarian visas.

Tsimanouskaya's plight became a major story from the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and refocused international attention on repression in Belarus since protests erupted when authoritarian ruler Alyaksandr Lukashenka claimed victory in a disputed presidential election one year ago.

Several protesters have been killed and thousands arrested during mass demonstrations demanding Lukashenka's resignation. There have also been credible reports of torture during a widening security crackdown.

While Tsimanouskaya has said she has never met Lukashenka, she has also noted that "terrible" things have been happening in Belarus.

Lukashenka's son Viktar took over leadership of the Belarusian National Olympic Committee recently from his father in a move that the International Olympic Committee (IOC) did not recognize.

Other Belarusian athletes, including a former Olympic medalist decathlete and his wife, have reportedly fled life in Belarus since Tsimanouskaya's ordeal began and after Ukraine announced a murder investigation when an exiled Lukashenka critic was found dead in Kyiv.

Earlier in August, a coach of the Vitsyaz handball club in Minsk, Kanstantsin Yakauleu, fled for Ukraine weeks after he served 15 days in jail for taking part in an unsanctioned anti-government rally.

Belarusian heptathlete Yana Maksimava and her Olympic-medalist husband, Andrey Krauchanka, also announced that they have decided to stay in Germany with their child due to the ongoing crackdown in Belarus.

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    RFE/RL's Belarus Service is one of the leading providers of news and analysis to Belarusian audiences in their own language. It is a bulwark against pervasive Russian propaganda and defies the government’s virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media.