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Polish Olympian auctions medal to pay for toddler's heart operation

"This silver can save lives, instead of collecting dust in a closet," Maria Andrejczyk said.
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A Polish javelin thrower who won a silver medal at the Tokyo Olympics appears to have a heart of gold.

The athlete, Maria Andrejczyk, herself a bone cancer survivor, auctioned off the medal to give an 8-month-old boy with a heart defect a fighting chance at survival.

Andrejczyk, 25, announced Monday on her Facebook page that the winning bid of $125,000, which was proffered by a Polish convenience store chain, will pay for little Miłoszek Małysa's operation at Stanford University Medical Center.

"It is with the greatest pleasure that I am handing over to you Żabka, the little big store chain, my medal, which to me is a symbol of faith and perseverance in the face of great obstacles," she wrote.

In an interview with Eurosport Polska, a Polish sports program, Andrejczyk said that winning the medal brought her "enormous happiness" and that she wanted to "pass that happiness on" to a young child who could use some.

"The true value of a medal always remains in the heart," Andrejczyk said. "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."

The toddler's condition, according to his fundraising page, appears to be dire.

Miłoszek, whose heart defect causes his blood pressure to skyrocket and damage the arteries in his lungs and in the heart, is home in southern Poland and receiving hospice care, the page reports. NBC News has asked Stanford University Medical Center whether the lifesaving operation has been scheduled.

Andrejczyk, who is from a small village near the Lithuanian border called Kukle, just missed winning a medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016. Then, two years later, Polish media reported, she was diagnosed with bone cancer.

"I'm very proud of myself," Andrejczyk said in an interview after she returned to Poland from Tokyo. "I fought like a lioness through a lot of pain and depression."

She will also get to keep her hard-won medal.

After it won the auction, Żabka returned it to Andrejczyk and made a donation for the boy's operation in her name.

"We were moved by the beautiful and extremely noble gesture of our Olympian, so we decided to support the fundraiser for Miłoszek," Żabka tweeted. "We also decided the silver medal will remain with Mrs. Maria."

Andrejczyk won silver in the women's javelin throw with a 64.61-meter throw. Only Liu Shiying of China did better, at 66.34 meters.