Olympic medal on the market raises questions for athletes
Goalie Ed Belfour sold his for $34,777
Would I or wouldn't I? When the news came out recently that former Team Canada goalie Ed Belfour was selling his Olympic medal, my colleagues at work wanted to know if I would ever consider doing the same.
I'm sure I wasn't the only one surprised when his online memorabilia auction included his 2002 Olympic gold medal. In 2002, the Canadian men's hockey team — with Belfour as third-string goalie — won the gold medal by topping the U.S. 5-2 in Salt Lake City. It was a big deal ending a 50-year gold medal drought in men's hockey. Fans across Canada celebrated wildly. It was the birth of Canada's tradition of planting a "lucky loonie" in the ice.
- Facebook Q&A: What do you think of athletes selling their Olympic medals? (Friday, 4 p.m. ET, CBC Sports Facebook Page)
My gut answer was, "No, I'd never consider selling it." The medal represents my journey, my devotion and my accomplishment. Yet, my logical mind knows there could be a tipping point. There is always a tipping point, right?
I was so intrigued that I reached out to some Olympic friends. I wanted to know – would they sell their Olympic medal (or for some, one of their Olympic medals)?
Most said it's unlikely. Not because it is valuable or because the medal itself is important. Quite the opposite. Not a single person expressed attachment to the medal and instead, expressed the value in the experiences and the memories it represents.
I couldn't even get my multimedallist friends to pick a favourite! Catriona Le May Doan (two-time Olympic gold medallist) let me know it was like asking her to pick her favorite child and Tania Vincent (four-time Olympic medallist) stated each medal signified a unique story (both positive and negative) in her journey and that choosing to sell any of those medals would personally feel like it is devaluing those experiences.
My favourite discovery was knowing that I'm not the only one keeping an Olympic medal hidden in a bag in my closet. Cassie Campbell-Pascall shared with me that hers are stored similarly, and she only recently retrieved them after five years in hiding after her daughter asked her to bring them to her school.
Kids and community were a common theme in the responses. Selling was on the table for Adam Kreek and Jeff Pain if it ensured a better quality of life or education for their children. Veronica Brenner would consider selling if it helped a cause she was personally attached to.
Every Olympian I spoke to was in a comfortable enough financial position that they didn't need to sell their Olympic hardware. However, each admitted there could be a tipping point. I mean, realistically, how could there not be?
Clarifying the fiscal tipping point raises the awkward question of who would ever want to buy someone else's Olympic medal? As Adam Van Koeverden eloquently stated, "it's not like purchasing a medal from me would make that person an Olympic medallist but I suppose if a billionaire offered me a million plus for it, I'd be crazy not to consider it."
He'd consider it. I can honestly say I'd consider it too. As a young professional living in Toronto with dreams of someday owning a home, how could I not?
But if Belfour can only raise $34,777 US for one of Canada's most memorable Olympic hockey gold medals, I think my medal will be far better served hanging out in a bag until my next charity event or school show and tell. It is those moments, when the medal is in the hands of a child gazing at it with awe and aspiration, that I truly understand the priceless value of my Olympic medal.