A cancer-survivor Polish javelin thrower auctioned off her Olympic silver medal for the life-saving surgery of an eight-month-old boy, only for the convenience store chain that won the bid to ensure that the Olympian gets to keep her medal.
The Tokyo Olympics, although delayed by a year, continues to throw up symbols of hope.
Last Wednesday, silver medallist javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk took to Facebook to announce a fundraiser for Polish toddler Miloszek
in need of heart surgery at a US hospital.
“It was the first fundraiser I entered and I knew it was the right one. Miloszek has a serious heart defect and is in need of surgery. He already has a head start from a boy who didn’t make it in time but whose amazing parents decided to pass on the funds they collected. And in this way, I also want to help. It’s for him that I am auctioning my Olympic silver medal,” 25-year-old Maria, who came second in the javelin final with a best throw of 64.61m on August 6, wrote on Facebook, opening the bid.
The surgery required 1.5 million Polish zloty — nearly £280,000 — of which half was collected.
Maria, touted as the favourite to take gold at Tokyo, specified that she would be “accepting bids in a private message” and would keep updating the bidders.
The Times, London, quoted Maria — herself a bone cancer survivor — as saying in a Polish TV interview: “The true value of a medal always remains in the heart. A medal is only an object, but it can be of great value to others. This silver can save lives, instead of collecting dust in a closet.”
This Monday, she announced the winner of the auction — Polish convenience store chain Zabka.
“It is with the greatest pleasure to give you ZABKA this medal, which for me is a symbol of struggle, faith and pursuit of dreams despite many odds. I hope that for you it will be a symbol of the life we fought for together,” she wrote.
Zabka, however, went a step further. “Moved by the beautiful and extremely noble gesture of our Olympija girl”, Zabka wrote on Facebook: “we decided that the silver medal from Tokyo will stay with Ms. Maria”.
The money raised will allow the boy to get the necessary surgery at Stanford University Medical Center in the US.
Soon after Tokyo 2020 had closed, news broke on social media how gold medallist hurdler Hansle Parchment from Jamaica tracked down and thanked a Games volunteer who gave him taxi fare to reach the race venue on time after he had mistakenly reached another arena. At the closing ceremony, IOC president Thomas Bach had said: “Athletes went faster, went higher and were stronger because they all stood together in solidarity… The Olympic Games of Tokyo were the Olympic Games of hope, solidarity and peace.”
Yes, they were.