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Olympic silver medal sells for $52,500 at auction

September 19, 1997

SYDNEY, Australia (AP) _ Raelene Boyle sobbed gently Friday after selling her Olympic silver medal, but the tears were more over the memory of her battle with cancer than losing her greatest sporting trophy.

Boyle’s 100-meter silver medal from the 1972 Olympics sold for $52,500. She had put the medal and other memorabilia, including the flag she carried into the Montreal Olympic Stadium in 1976, up for auction to help rebuild her life after 18 months of fighting breast cancer. The cancer is in remission.

The auction was part of a lunch in Boyle’s honor, organized a year ago while she was undergoing chemotherapy. It was solely her decision to sell the medal, one of three silvers she won. She has given the other two away.

``This time last year I thought, `I may not be alive _ how can I be saying yes to something I can’t be sure I can fulfill the commitment to?‴ Boyle told 580 people who paid $150 each.

``I couldn’t even drink a glass of champagne last year. There was all this free drink and I couldn’t even have one glass because it felt like I was drinking razor blades,″ she said.

``This year I haven’t enjoyed one yet, but I’m going to enjoy a few afterwards.″

The event raised more than $300,000 to be shared between Boyle and the Cancer Foundation. Among those in the crowd was singer Olivia Newton-John, who spoke of her successful fight against breast cancer.

The 46-year-old Boyle had hoped the medal might be returned to her by the successful bidder, but businessman Bill Gibbins said it would go to the Australian Olympic Museum in Melbourne.

``I thought it would go for over $100,000. I got it cheap,″ Gibbins said.

He said he ``got a bit carried away with the emotion″ of the event, which he attended because several of his friends had died of breast cancer and his wife, Iolanda, was involved in fund-raising.

He said the medal now belonged to Australia, though Boyle would be allowed to use it for functions if needed.

``What’s the point of having it at home with her where she can’t use it?″ Gibbins said. ``As a nation we need a few monuments to go and see. You can’t put a value on Olympic medals.″

Boyle said her running career had helped her confront personal problems, such as the diagnosis of cancer just months before her mother died of lung cancer.

Although her medal was gone, Boyle considered Friday a time for celebration.

``It’s been a wonderful day. It’s all so overwhelming that I find it difficult to stand here and talk,″ Boyle said, choking up briefly before maintaining composure.

``I’m touched by everyone’s support for me today. Sport was in my life for 20 years and my dream was to win an Olympic gold medal. History tells us I didn’t do that.

``I never surrendered my dream of winning an Olympic gold medal to the day I retired. The parallels of heartbreak and fun, joy and dismay, success and failure and people ... visualizing success and working toward a goal all helped last year when I was diagnosed with cancer.″

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