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Israeli Olympic champion to auction medal for Gaza border communities

“What is a world champion worth if my country is hurting?” said gymnast Artem Dolgopyat, who took the gold medal at the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics in Belgium on Oct. 7

Israeli athlete Artem Dolgopyat in Belgium after winning the the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 7, 2023. Credit: Guy Bitman.
Israeli athlete Artem Dolgopyat in Belgium after winning the the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships on Oct. 7, 2023. Credit: Guy Bitman.

An Olympic champion who won Israel’s first-ever world gold in gymnastics is auctioning off the medal to raise money for the Gaza border communities devastated in the Oct. 7 attack by Hamas terrorists.

Artem Dolgopyat, 26, won the 2023 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships on floor exercise in Belgium on the very day of the massacre, when thousands of Hamas terrorists burst into southern Israel and overran nearly two dozen Israeli communities, murdering 1,200 people, most civilians, abducting 240 others to Gaza and laying waste to the area.

The Ukrainian-born Olympic medalist and world champion, who immigrated to Israel in 2009 with his parents at the age of 12, stood on the winners’ podium on Oct. 7 with an Israeli flag marked with black tape as the reports came in of the massacre, and accepted the award in the name of the State of Israel and residents of the Gaza border communities.

Over the last two months, Dolgopyat, together with his coach and manager, considered what he could do on behalf of the country amid his busy training schedule, and came to the decision to auction off his world championship gold medal to help those who had to flee their communities and were without a home.

“What is a world champion worth if my country is hurting?” Dolgopyat told JNS in an interview Tuesday. “For me, the State of Israel is in first place.”

The auction price for the World Championships gold medal starts at $100,000.

The auction will be held on Sunday, January 7 at 9 p.m. Israel time.

Dolgopyat who lives in the Israeli coastal city of Netanya after growing up in the Tel Aviv suburb of Rishon Lezion, said that he talked over the highly unusual decision with his parents who said that he should do as his heart desires.

“I must help my country and the people who had to leave their homes three months ago and who may not have a home to come back to,” he said in the interview.

The proceeds from the auction of the medal will be distributed to border-area communities by the Tel Aviv based Shoresh Fund, which has distributed NIS 6 million to border-area communities since the outbreak of the war, co-founder David Sherez said Tuesday.

Dolgopyat is considered one of the country’s top athletes, with a star-studded and award-winning career. Before becoming World Champion, he won Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021. In 2022, he also won a gold medal for his floor routine at the European Artistic Gymnastics Championship in Munich, among other awards worldwide.  His next competition is in February.

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