Rafael Nadal wins a snack at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games (Photo: Behrouz Mehri/Getty Images)

Today I Found Out host Simon Whistler recently discovered why there are so many danged pictures of Olympic medalists chomping on their gold, silver, and bronze medals. It’s not because the athletes are hoping that—exhausted and hungry after a perfect-10 floor exercise or undefeated beach volleyball run—the medal is actually made out of chocolate.

Rather, as Whistler shares in his short video, Olympians use their medals as teething toys simply because the photographers ask them to. Over and over until they relent, according to four-time Olympic medal winner in swimming Summer Sanders. Apparently biting the medal makes for a more interesting photo than the athletes merely holding them. That’s an excellent photography tip: “Hug your newborn, proud parents. Give your baby a kiss. Hm, that’s not quite working. Actually, could you… eat that baby?”


Whistler says that the tradition probably stems from the practice of biting medal to test whether or not it’s real gold. Solid gold is softer than teeth enamel, so teeth should be able to leave a mark in it. If an object is gold-plated, one should be able to scrape the layer of gold off, if it’s thin enough, with one’s teeth.

Not since 1912 have Olympic medals been made of solid gold. Today’s gold medals are mostly made of sterling silver and plated with 24-carat gold; while bronze medals are mostly made of copper. So, gold is silver. Silver is silver. And bronze is copper. And I, oddly, am hungry.


[via Laughing Squid]