This has been a question that has been lingering in most sports fans’ minds; why do Olympians bite their medals?
And no! It’s not because they are made of chocolate!
Undoubtedly the most iconic shot of any Olympic podium, the famed medal-bite photo has become an age-old tradition at the modern Games. And this year’s Rio Olympics was not left out as well. The widespread trend has been seen in Brazil.
The gold medal winner’s national anthem has just finished ringing out around the stadium, there’s a big wave to the crowd and then before you know it, they face the cameras and start giving their medal a right good chew.
So, why do athletes feel the need to put their new shiny piece of jewellery in their mouth?
Historically, biting down on gold was a practice to verify the authenticity of pure gold, with teeth indentation serving as proof that one was in possession of real gold and not pyrite, also known as “Fool’s Gold.”
David Wallechinsky, the president of the International Society of Olympic Historians however explains that it has nothing to do with the Olympians at all.
“It’s become an obsession with the photographers,” Wallechinsky, co-author of “The Complete Book of the Olympics”, told CNN.
“I think they look at it as an iconic shot, as something that you can probably sell. I don’t think it’s something the athletes would probably do on their own.”
According to Epoch Times, winning Olympians don’t end up with much real gold. Each medal weighs 500 grams. Olympic gold medals are only plated with six grams of gold with 99.9 percent purity. The rest consists of 494 grams of sterling silver,according to the Brazilian Mint. The silver medals are comprised of 500 grams of recycled silver at 92.5 percent purity.
One German Olympian, David Moeller, broke a tooth on his silver medal while trying to please overeager photographers in 2010.
“The photographers wanted us to bite into our medals at the presentation ceremony. And a corner of my front tooth broke off,” Moeller said.
“It wasn’t too bad and it didn’t hurt. But it is annoying when you can’t smile as you normally do. And because I want to have nice pictures and happy memories of my Olympic Games, I went to the dentist to get it repaired.”
Former US Olympians Natalie Coughlin and Dawn Harper-Nelson said in a video via NBC, that after winning their medals, they were faced by a mob of press photographers who demanded they bite their newly acquired hardware.
“They’re screaming, ‘Look at me!’ You just have everyone yelling demands of ‘Smile!’ and ‘Bite your medal!’” Harper-Nelson explained.
“They wear you down and they make you bite it,” Coughlin agreed.
According to the website Coin Apps, the “podium value” of a gold medal is worth approximately $570—a small amount compared to what an Olympian can earn as a winner.
U.S. athletes earn $25,000 for winning gold and are taxed by the government as income earned overseas. Silver medalists from Kazakhstan are paid $150,000, and a Singaporean athlete who wins an individual gold medal at the Olympic Games can earn up to $1 million, according to the Singapore National Olympic Council, Epoch Times reports.
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