WARSAW, Poland -- Belarusian Olympic sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya, who feared for her safety at home after criticizing her coaches on social media, flew into Warsaw on Wednesday night on a humanitarian visa after leaving the Tokyo Olympics, a Polish diplomat confirmed.
Deputy Foreign Minister Marcin Przydacz said the 24-year-old athlete had arrived in the Polish capital after flying in from Tokyo via Vienna, a route apparently chosen to confuse those who would endanger her safety.
In a statement, the diplomat said he “wanted to thank all the Polish consular & diplomatic staff involved, who flawlessly planned and secured her safe journey.”
The plane that she was traveling on from Vienna was directed to a separate airport building in Warsaw used by government officials. Police vans were seen all over the airport. Passengers from the flight told reporters that one young woman was left on board as they exited the plane and were put on buses to the main terminal.
Tsimanouskaya later was seen with a top Belarusian dissident in Poland, Pavel Latushko, in a photo taken just after her arrival inside the airport building.
In a dramatic weekend standoff at the Tokyo Games, Tsimanouskaya said Belarus team officials tried to force her to fly home early after she criticized them. She urged the International Olympic Committee to look into the dispute and some European countries stepped in to offer assistance.
It's not clear what's next for the runner -- either in her sporting life or her personal one. Before she left Japan, she said she hoped to continue her running career but that safety was her immediate priority. Her husband fled Belarus this week shortly after his wife said she would not be returning, and Poland has also offered him a visa.
The drama began after Tsimanouskaya’s criticism of how officials were managing her team set off a massive backlash in state-run media in Belarus, where the government has relentlessly stifled any criticism.
The runner said on Instagram that she was put in the 4x400 relay even though she has never raced in the event. She was then barred from competing in the 200 meters.
She accused team officials of hustling her to the Tokyo airport but she refused to board a plane home and was protected by Japanese security.
Isachenkov reported from Moscow. Yuras Karmanau of the Associated Press in Kyiv, Ukraine; Frank Jordans in Berlin; Alex Schuller in Vienna; and Monika Scislowska and Rafal Niedzielski in Warsaw, Poland, contributed to this report.