Former Ukrainian Athletes Turned Homeland Hereos

Over the last several months, millions of people around the world have stood by the side of Ukraine during the ongoing war with Russia, offering money, hygiene products, food, and all other types of aid to those in need. Recently, two distinguished Ukrainian former athletes have auctioned off their most prized possessions from their careers, donating all of the proceeds to help their homeland in need.

Former Olympic gymnast Ruslan Mezentsev put his silver medal up for auction at the beginning of this month, pledging the earnings to go towards helping his country. Mezentsev won a silver medal in the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games for his part in the national team’s second place finish in the all-around competition, where he competed in the floor exercise, pommel horse, and still rings.

After multiple weeks on the auction block, it has just been announced that Mezentsev’s medal sold for a whopping $14,438. Mezentsev has vowed to give 100% the money as well as his seller’s premium to help support Ukrainian wartime efforts. What a guy.

Similarly, former 2-time NBA champion Slava Medvedenko has just placed both of his championship rings up for auction, also planning to donate all of the profits. Medvedenko, who was a part of both the 2001 and 2002 Lakers teams alongside Kobe and Shaq, has put his rings up for sale at SCP Auctions which will end bidding on August 5. It is estimated the combined value is over $100,000.

Medvedenko has committed to putting all of the money into his charity Slava’s Fly High Foundation, which focuses on rebuilding sports centers and gyms at schools that have been affected by the war. 

In an interview with the Associated Press, Medvedenko explained his reasoning for the foundation, saying “We want to restore gyms because the Russian army bombed more than a hundred schools. Our country, they need a lot of money to fix the schools. Sports gyms are going to be last in the line to fix it. In Ukraine, we have winter, and kids need to play inside.”

As if sacrificing his greatest possessions wasn’t enough, Medvedenko has also joined the literal fight. Despite no military training, Medvedenko is serving in Ukraine’s territorial defense. Standing at 6’10’’ strapped with an AK-47, Medvedenko is literally doing all he can to protect his homeland.

Though the two men may no longer have proof of their athletic accomplishments, they will now be remembered for something way bigger than playing a sport. 

Alex Becker

Written by Alex Becker

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