The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Polish Olympian auctions off silver medal to help pay for infant’s surgery

After disappointment in the 2016 Olympics, Maria Andrejczyk overcame injury and illness to finish second in the Tokyo Olympics. (Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Placeholder while article actions load

For Maria Andrejczyk, something mattered more than the silver medal she won in the javelin during the Tokyo Olympics. So the bone cancer survivor decided to auction her medal to raise money to help pay for surgery for an 8-month-old baby with a heart defect.

Andrejczyk came across a fundraiser for Miloszek Malysa, she wrote Aug. 11 on Facebook (translation from Polish via ESPN), and chose to sell her only Olympic medal to help a stranger.

Malysa “already has a head start,” Andrejczyk wrote, from a fundraiser for “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.”

On Monday, she wrote that a $125,000 bid from Zabka, a Polish convenience store chain, was the winner, with funds set to help the child have surgery at Stanford University Medical Center. She wrote that she was giving the chain her medal, “which for me is a symbol of struggle, faith and pursuit of dreams despite many odds.”

Zabka, however, gave the medal back to Andrejczyk, who had missed winning a medal in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics by a mere two centimeters.

After Rio, her road to Tokyo was difficult as she dealt with shoulder and Achilles’ injuries and, far more troubling, learned that persistent headaches and nasal problems were osteosarcoma, a form of bone cancer.

Olympic magic cut through the pandemic gloom, but the Tokyo Games’ legacy is complex

“It was not something very dangerous and I knew I could make a quick recovery,” she told in 2020.

Three weeks after surgery, she was training again and this time she did not leave the Olympics in disappointment, winning the silver medal with a throw of 64.61 meters. China’s Liu Shiying took gold with a 66.34.

“I just want to be healthy first,” she said. “If I stay healthy I can then show what I’m capable of. I still love that feeling of improving through training. Javelin has made me a better person. It brings me joy.”