September 26, 2012 – After his Olympic road race victory, Alexander Vinokourov declared: “It is a dream come true.” Now he is making the dreams of others come true by auctioning his winning bike and jersey in order to help sick children in need of major operations.
On September 16th, Kazakhstan’s Alexander Vinokourov, Olympic Champion, turned 39 years old. He celebrated his birthday by joining thousands of cycling enthusiasts for a bike ride through Kazakhstan’s largest city, Almaty. This was followed by an auction which raised over a quarter of a million US dollars for sick children awaiting major operations.
Vinokourov auctioned the bike he rode to victory on The Mall in London on July 28th, the jersey of the Kazakhstan national team that he wore on the podium, and a limited edition of the “Astana Pro Team” cycling jersey bearing the Olympic rings and the champion’s name. The three items sold for US $243,000, $10,000 and $2,500 respectively.
The money raised will go to the charity fund Bolashak, which plans to use the funds to treat seven children aged between 2 and 7 years. All are in need of major operations such as heart surgery, liver and kidney transplants and treatment for cerebral palsy. For these operations, the children will travel abroad – to Russia, Germany and Turkey – with the first operation scheduled for October.
“This bike has brought me success, and now thanks to it, I can support young citizens of the country who are in a difficult situation,” said the Kazakh cyclist after the auction. “I sincerely hope that some of them will also become champions. Not necessarily in sport, but in life. They should be strong in spirit and fight to the end! In this case they will win.”
Before the auction, Vinokourov took part in a mass bicycle event through Almaty, the city where he trained in a sports school as a teenager. He was accompanied by Kazakhstan’s double Olympic Weightlifting Champion Ilya Ilyin and the Mayor of Almaty, Akhmetzhan Yessimov.
According to Tengrinews.kz, “Vino” presented the city Mayor with his helmet after the ride.
“Today I have seen many of you riding without helmets and our Mayor has done the same. Your health is most important. Please wear your helmets. I will give you my own,” Vinokourov told Mr Yessimov.
He added that he was closely watching the development of cycling in Kazakhstan, and he applauded the organisation of mass bike rides.
“This is a superb idea to get our citizens to start riding bicycles (instead of driving cars). It is important for the environment, for the city’s residents and for their health.”
The Olympic Champion may have announced his retirement from professional cycling, but he is in no way turning his back on the sport.