Polish Olympian auctions silver medal for infant's heart surgery, but winning bidder won't accept it

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Not even two weeks since winning a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics, Polish javelin thrower Maria Andrejczyk put it up for auction to help save an infant's life. 

On Monday, she announced that she exceeded her fundraising goal. And she's keeping her silver medal thanks to the donor who put her over the top. 

Andrejczyk announced the auction on Facebook on Aug. 11, five days after securing the silver medal in javelin. She wrote that she chose to raise funds for Miłoszek Małysa, an 8-month-old boy who needs to travel from Poland to Stanford University in California to have life-saving heart surgery. She didn't know Małysa, but wrote that she knew his cause was the right choice after reading online pleas for help from his parents.

"Miłoszek has a serious heart defect, he needs an operation," Andrejczyk wrote, per Google Translate. "He also has support from above from Kubuś — a boy who did not make it on time, but wonderful people decided to donate his funds to Miłoszek. And this is how I want to help too. It is for him that I am auctioning off my Olympic silver medal."

Maria Andrejczyk (POL) celebrates winning the silver medal in women's javelin throw during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Olympic Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Maria Andrejczyk put her silver medal up for auction to help an infant access heart surgery. (Kirby Lee/Reuters)

Andrejczyk, a cancer survivor: This silver can save lives

Andrejczyk wrote that Małysa needed 1.5 million Polish zlotys — roughly $385,000 — to cover the costs of his transportation and medical care. She wrote that half had already been raised by the family's online fundraiser and that her goal along with Małysa's mother was to raise the other half through the medal auction. 

Andrejczyk, 25, is a cancer survivor. A 2018 sinus X-Ray revealed that she suffered from osteosarcoma, a type of cancer that forms in the cells that form bones. She required surgery, but not chemotherapy and was able to restart training for the Tokyo Games in 2019. She previously competed in the Rio Olympics in 2016, where she finished two centimeters off the podium in fourth place. 

She recovered in time to compete in Tokyo, where her throw of 64.61 meters earned her the silver medal on Aug. 6 behind China's gold-medal winner Shiying Liu (66.34 meters). While she cherishes the accomplishment, she decided that putting the medal up for auction was of more value than keeping it herself.

"The true value of a medal always remains in the heart," Małysa said, per the Times of London. "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. That is why I decided to auction it to help sick children."

Tokyo 2020 Olympics - Athletics - Women's Javelin Throw - Final - Olympic Stadium, Tokyo, Japan - August 6, 2021. Maria Andrejczyk of Poland in action REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel
After a fourth-place finish in Rio, Maria Andrejczyk made the podium in Tokyo. (Reuters/Aleksandra Szmigiel)

Auction goal met, but Andrejczyk will keep her medal

On Monday, Andrejczyk announced that the auction was closed. A Polish convenience store chain called Zabka made the winning bid. 

"We have the winner of the auction!" she wrote. "On Friday I received this wonderful information, and due to the fact that you dears have already done wonders and joint forces have paid more than the equivalent of the initial medal to the Miłoszek account — I decided to end the auction so that our Miłoszek will receive the whole amount as soon as possible and can fly to the USA.

"The winner, and at the same time, the company I will be eternally grateful to is the company Zabka."

Zabka confirmed that it made the winning bid with a Facebook message reading: "We were moved by the beautiful and extremely noble gesture" made by Andrejczyk.

Zabka gracefully declined to accept the silver medal. 

"We also decided that the silver medal from Tokyo will stay with Ms. Maria."

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