Olympic athletes are blessed with a unique set of gifts, both physical and mental. To be the best in the world at events that demand cat-like agility, Herculean-strength, marathon-endurance, and decades of machine-like discipline is worthy of respect. But what if you combine all of these qualities with the empathy of a saint?
You get Piotr Malachowski.
Malachowski, a 6’4”, 290 pound two time Olympian won the silver medal in the Discus at the Rio Olympics last month. But instead of adding the medal to his collection of awards, he decided to auction it off, in an effort to pay for the surgery of a young Polish boy he’d never met. The child’s mother had written a desperate letter to Piotr as time was running out.
Three year-old Olek Szymanski has retinoblastoma, an eye cancer that effects children 5 years-old and younger, and he needed surgery to save his eyesight and his life. The cost was estimated to be $126,000 and needed to be done in a special ophthalmic oncology clinic in New York. Some money had already been raised, and Malachowski was hoping to raise the rest of what was needed---$84,000. So he posted an online challenge to the world:
“I invite everybody to join the bidding. If you help me, my silver medal may be more valuable for Olek than gold."
After one week, the bidding had risen to $19,000, a significant amount, but still far short of the olympian’s goal. And then Polish billionaire siblings Dominika and Sebastian Kulczyk stepped up and bought the medal for the full price. And just like that Olek was on his way to New York.
As an added bonus, as if there was a need for one, more than 120,000 people have now also donated to Malachowski’s charity site SiePomaga, dedicated to raising money for children with catastrophic health crises.
Poland won eleven medals at the Rio Games, but all of them combined didn’t outweigh the significance of the one silver medal that saved a little boy’s life.
Sometimes the greatest champions finish second.
Piotr Malachowski is a hero you should know. And I’m Dr. Ross Porter.