Belarusian sprinter who defected plans to run for Poland

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Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya attends a news conference in Warsaw
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MOSCOW (Reuters) - Belarusian sprinter Krystsina Tsimanouskaya who defected during the Tokyo Olympics this month says she plans to apply for Polish sporting citizenship so that she can run for Poland.

Tsimanouskaya, 24, was taken in by Warsaw when her coaches told her to return to Belarus from Japan following a dispute, an order she refused to obey fearing for her safety.

Belarus has been gripped by a sweeping crackdown on anti-government dissent following mass protests that erupted last year over a disputed election.

In an interview with the RBC television channel aired late on Wednesday, Tsimanouskaya said it can take three years to change sporting citizenship, but she hoped her application would be fast-tracked.

"We are now going to try to change my sporting citizenship so that I can compete for the Polish national team," she said. "I have decided to stay in Poland and compete for the Polish national team."

(Reporting by Tom Balmforth and Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber; editing by Barbara Lewis)

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