Erika Salumäe selling Olympic golds

Erika Salumäe

PHOTO: Peeter Langovits / Postimees

At an auction on November 4th, an Estonian sports heroine Erika Salumäe is selling all her medals, souvenirs, and competition kit. Among other things, the track cyclist is selling her Olympic golds from Soul and Barcelona.

Ms Salumäe, for years dwelling in Spain, agrees not to explain why. «I will not comment to Estonian media,» said she, hanging up. The decision to go silent on Estonian media dating back to the time she beat, in court, over magazine Kroonika.

«The emotions belong to the nation, the medals to the sportswoman,» acknowledged Neinar Seli, president of Estonian Olympic Committee, hearing of the sales only yesterday. «Selling the medals is Ms Salumäe’s private business, explainable by her only. Still, I will have to admit, I’m surprised by the move.»

Mr Seli last talked to Ms Salumäe about a month ago, the latter desiring to inform locals on training camps options in Spain. At that time, the former cyclist said nothing of sales plans regarding the medals.

At its website, the British auction house Graham Budd provides a long list of Ms Salumäe’s stuff, complete with descriptions, photos and prices. At the moment, Olympic gold medals are noted at £9,000-12,000. The total amounts to £41,050 (€48,528).

This, of course being just the estimate of the moment; the proof of the pudding being the auction. However, the rules thereof set a floor for each item. The price floor is not public knowledge. 

For sportsmen, selling medals earned by toil, sweat and tears, is extreme. Formerly, the cyclist Avo Pikkuus has sold one, citing health costs.

Like many top sportsmen, Ms Salumäe has had a hard time with her health. To the knowledge of Postimees, she has recently undergone back surgery, with more in the pipeline.

According to management, Ms Salumäe’s items have, over the past months, been in the process of removal from Estonian Sports Museum. According to comments by the museum, they are – with regret – returning items supposedly granted them for good. The museum is sad to leave with winning bike at Barcelona, which has been a standing exposition item.

According to museum, Ms Salumäe claimed she was not aware the items had been granted to them for good – even though the documents prove otherwise.

The items granted to museum were claimed via Ministry of Cultural Affairs, which said its «yes» only very recently. According to ministry’s museum adviser Marju Reismaa, the application was legally filed by Ms Salumäe’s lawyer. 

Mr Seli has a background of purchasing one Olympic gold back to Estonia – that of wrestler Johannes Kotkas, dating to 1952, purchased from wife Ilse. Mr Seli granted the medal to the Sports Museum.  But what about Ms Salumäe’s medals?

Mr Seli says it is too fresh for him to comment. He referred to the museum possessing funds for the purchase, while admitting the price might get high. «That will be a challenge for sports lovers,» said he.

Hopes are low regarding state aid. According to Ms Reismaa, there are no precedents of culture ministry of Sports Museum  buying up medals at auctions.

Treasure sold by Erika Salumäe

•    Olympic gold, Soul 1988: £9,000-12,000

•    Olympic gold, Barcelona 1992: £9,000-12,000

•    World Championships: gold, Vienna 1987; gold, Lyon 1989; silver, Barcelona 1984; silver,  Colorado Springs 1986; bronze, Bogota 1995. £1,800-2,200

•    World Cup, Vienna 1987: £500-700

•    Universities Championship Events, two golds and silver, £500-600

•    USSR champion gold, other medals: £1,500-2,500

•    Medals from other major events: £200-300

•    Barcelona golden bike: £2,500-3,500

•    Plus loads of souvenirs and title events’ items

•    Estimated total value: £41,000