14ymedio, Havana, 28 December 2023 — Double Olympic boxing champion Mario Kindelán sold the gold medal he won at the 2000 Sydney Olympics because he “had practically nothing to eat” and to “support” his daughters. The confession of the legendary athlete, during an interview given to Play-Off Magazine at the beginning of December, is not the only testimony of athletes who had to give up their prizes for the sake of survival. Like others, the boxer – who also sold the gold medal he obtained in Athens 2004 – insists that he doesn’t regret it.
According to Kindelán, who also spoke in the documentary Lucha,* produced by the American production company Society, it was preferable to exchange his medals for “a television or a refrigerator.” The media reports that he sold his Sydney medal for $400 and used the money to support his family “for a while.”
The boxer described the precarious state in which he was living as “critical,” so much so that he and his wife divorced. Through Facebook and to help him, Kindelán was contacted to train young people at the Grappling Club of Bahrain, a country in the Persian Gulf, where he is currently located. Now Kindelán provides a fact that gives the measure of his poverty: on the Island he received 7,400 pesos for his status as Olympic champion, which “was not enough to buy candy for his children or have the security of eating.”
Yarelys Barrios sold the silver medal he won in Beijing 2008 for $11,600, on eBay
At the beginning of December, the boxer tried to sell his gold medal won in Athens 2004. Former British boxer Amir Khan, who admires Kindelán, donated $5,000 to the Cuban to build a house for his mother on the Island. According to Khan, the Cuban, in a moment of “despair,” told him to keep the medal he won in 2012, after defeating the British in Athens.
Kindelán is not the only athlete who has had to give up his medals to overcome poverty in Cuba. The discus thrower Yarelys Barrios sold the silver medal he won in Beijing 2008 for $11,600, on e-Bay. The case was announced after the International Olympic Committee reported that the athlete tested positive for the use of the doping substance acetazolamide, a diuretic and prohibited masking agent, and he was unable return the prize.
The cases of the boxers Roniel Iglesias, Carlos Banteux and Sixto Soria, the Greco-Roman wrestling athlete Juan Luis Marén, the shooter Leuris Pupo, the long-jumper Iván Pedroso and the baseball player Miguel Caldés are different: their medals appeared as part of the auction lots of RR Auction with few explanations about their provenance.
In January, as part of the Olympic Memorabilia lot, the gold medal that boxer Roniel Iglesias won at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was sold. For the prize, which has the legend “Boxing, male welterweight (63-69 kg)” inscribed on the edge, RR Auction obtained $83,188; it is not known if the Cuban received any of this money.
In January, as part of the Olympic Memorabilia lot, the gold medal that boxer Roniel Iglesias won at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games was sold
In that same auction, Carlos Banteux’ silver medal, won at the 2008 Beijing Olympics in the 69-kilogram division, sold for $25,000.
In 2021, an American auction house sold for $71,335 the gold medals that Iván Pedroso won in hurdles in Sydney 2000, and those of the shooter Leuris Pupo, for $73,205.
On that same day, the silver medals of Cuban wrestlers were sold, that of Yasmany Lugo, which he won in Rio 2016 for $25,000 and that of Juan Luis Marén, which he won in Sydney 2000 for $10,000.
*Translator’s note: Lucha can be translated as “fight” or “struggle,” as in the daily struggle to get by.
Translated by Regina Anavy
COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.