Ukrainian Olympian Yuri Cheban auctioning medals to help war effort
Retired sprint canoeist hopes to raise 6-figure donation with 2 golds, 1 bronze
One of Ukraine's most decorated Olympians is auctioning his medals — two golds and a bronze — in hopes of raising a six-figure donation to contribute to the war effort in his native land.
"My Olympic medals won't matter if Ukraine can't stand for this fight for freedom and independence," retired sprint canoeist Yuri Cheban told The Associated Press in an email exchange Wednesday.
Cheban won Olympic gold in the 200 metres in 2012 and 2016 and a bronze in the 500 metres in 2008. SCP Auctions, which is conducting the sale, expects the gold medals to fetch in the neighborhood of $75,000 US each, an impressive estimate buoyed by the relative scarcity of available recent medals, and also their meaning.
Cheban will give the proceeds to the Olympic Circle charity fund, a collection started by athletes and targeted toward helping the city of Mykolaiv, which isn't far from the recently liberated city of Kherson and also close to Cheban's home, the Black Sea port city of Odessa.
"I think a lot of people in the world don't know the full extent of the situation in Ukraine," the 36-year-old Cheban said. "Right now, peaceful Ukrainian cities are without electricity, hospitals, schools, stores. People are freezing in their own apartments and some of my family is trying to live and work under these conditions."
Inspired by former NBA player Medvedenko
Cheban said the idea to auction his medals came from countryman Slava Medvedenko, a former professional basketball player who auctioned off his two championship rings from his time with the Los Angeles Lakers (2001 and 2002) to fund the war effort. Medvedenko's rings sold for a total of more than $253,000.
On Wednesday at its meetings in Rome, World Athletics presented one of its highest honours, the President's Award, to the Ukrainian Athletic Association. The federation's acting president, Yevhen Pronin, said Ukraine's presence at international meets was helpful in part because it gives "our sportsmen and officials a chance to communicate with media to let them know what's happening in Ukraine."
Cheban said he was "pessimistic" that sports alone can stop the attacks on Ukraine.
"But selling the medals of famous athletes can help save many Ukrainian lives and provide necessary equipment for the army," he said. "We need to be realistic."
The auction runs through Dec. 10.
To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.
By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.
Become a CBC Account Holder
Join the conversation Create account
Already have an account?