Let’s face it – 99.9% of us (and that’s being generous) will never even sniff an opportunity to make an Olympic team, let alone win an Olympic medal. One of SwimSwam’s co-owners, Mel Stewart, won three of them in Barcelona in 1992: two golds, and one bronze. He’s an exception to the rule.
That, however, is not to say that if you are of means and desire, that you can’t own an Olympic medal, and a piece of swimming history.
For the price of $25,000, you can buy an Olympic gold medal won by Hawaiian and Swimming Hall of Famer Ford Konno at the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki, Finland.
The listing doesn’t specify which of the medals specifically is listed, but in the details it says that he is willing to part with both the gold he won for the 1500 freestyle and the one he won for the 800 free relay.
In addition to his Olympic success, Konno is a former World Record holder in the 200 and 400 meter freestyles from his time at Ohio State during the Buckeyes’ days as a powerhouse.
Konno also has a point in the books of swimming-meets-history, as he was a part of the first post-WWII team to race in Japan after the war’s conclusion. While there, he beat Japanese legendary distance swimmer Hironoshin Furuhashi in 1950 at the height of his swimming career. Furuhashi set 33 World Records in his swimming career, and rarely lost, though his 1952 Olympic appearance was plagued by Dysentary, meaning he never won an Olympic medal despite being one of history’s great freestylers.
The listing comes with a letter of authenticity signed by Konno, though it doesn’t include the following “buyer beware” disclaimer that probably warrants further inspection before shelling out such a large sum of money:
Mr. Konno recently had the gold medals re-plated as they had faded from polishing over the years. He would often loan them out to different museums and schools for display (most recently to the Japanese Heritage Center in Honolulu on the island of Oahu). When the medals would be returned, Mr. Konno’s father would proudly polish them. Over the years, the original plating began to fade and Mr. Konno wanted to restore the medals to their original luster.
The EBay user “dankyboy” is also selling several other pieces of Konno memorabilia, including a set of Olympic participant pins and the trophy claimed to be awarded for Konno’s victory over his Japanese counterpart in 1950.
There’s not a lot of great swimming memorabilia available for sale on the web, especially as compared to the troves available from other sports like football, basketball, or baseball. Many swimming items are designed to be cheap and disposable. Suits used to be made out of paper. Caps shred for no reason in particular. Lost goggles more often find their way into the bag of a rec swimmer who forgets to return them borrowed from the lost and found than they do into the hands of a fan. If you can afford it, these opportunities don’t come along very often (Anthony Ervin and Poland’s Otylia Jedrzejczak are the other swimming golds that come to mind that have been sold.)