Like all Olympic hopefuls, javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk practiced for thousands of hours to achieve a place in history. She earned a silver medal during the 2020 Tokyo Games, but the honor didn’t wind up on a shelf. Instead, she immediately auctioned it off.
According to ESPN writer Aishwarya Kumar, Andrejczyk gave up her first and only medal to date for a good reason: The proceeds will help pay for an infant’s life-saving heart surgery.
The idea came to Andrejczyk following her win when she saw a Facebook post about Miloszek Malysa, an 8-month-old living in Andrejczyk's native Poland who is in need of the procedure. Andrejczyk wound up selling the medal for $125,000 to Polish grocery chain Żabka.
“It is with the greatest pleasure that I give Żabka this medal, which for me is a symbol of struggle, faith and pursuit of dreams despite many odds,” Andrejczyk wrote on Facebook. “I hope that for you it will be a symbol of the life we fought for together.”
Andrejczyk is familiar with adversity. She missed placing in the 2016 Rio Games by a few centimeters. In 2018, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.
The company, recognizing Andrejczyk’s generosity, decided to give the medal back to her immediately following the sale.
Olympic athletes have parted with their precious prizes in the past, typically for charitable causes. In 2012, boxer Wladimir Klitschko sold his 1996 gold medal for $1 million to fund the Klitschko Brothers Foundation, which supports athletic activities for children. In 2004, Polish Olympian Otylia Jedrzejczak sold her gold medal in the 200-meter butterfly to aid a children's leukemia charity.
Thanks to Andrejczyk's contribution as well as other donations, Malysa is due to undergo the surgery in the United States in the near future.