by Gina Pongetti Angeletti

Photos by Grace Chiu


Nightstands, galleries, museums, and the sock drawer. Olympic, World, and National Championships medals are kept in a variety of places. No matter where they land, after being around a neck on the podium, they are of value in achievement more than in physical presence.

In Stuttgart? We have added lights. The medals (as well as their ribbons!) glow when they are moved. And just like your smartphone, you can charge it before picture day with the family, with a USB port built in! STB President Wolfgang Drexler stated, “Not only the most beautiful of an Artistic Gymnastics World Championships, but probably also the most technically innovative medals of all time.”

Each event attempts to do something different, like the Rio 2016 Olympics. They attempted to add recycled materials to their medals. However, reports of hundreds of medals have come across with dark areas, rust spots and disintegration. Brazil is attempting to correct this for the winners, however, in events moving forward, one must make sure that they last throughout thousands of pictures and press opportunities, and for generations to come.

At times, the ribbon is truly the focus, with words, designs or colors to parallel the theme of the event. Many medals have pictures of the logo, historical landmark, the stadium in which the event took place, and more. The first traditional “neck” ribbon was introduced over 50 years ago in 1960. Each one from Tokyo 2020 will be unique in its own way, having a pattern of wood grain that is individual and like no other ribbon, as a tribute to Japan’s history and tradition. 

The Tokyo Olympic medal was a product of a design contest, allowing many to submit their most creative ideas, and then the winning medal was chosen from over 400 options. (This truly allowed the medal to be a representation of the country.)

The boxes that they come in can even be impressive. In Pyeongchang, they designed the boxes with the silhouette of Korean architecture and roofing.

Some of the world’s most accomplished athletes do odd things with their medals! Michael Phelps told Anderson Cooper in 2012 that he kept his wrapped neatly by a T-shirt in a makeup bag.

Shannon Miller, who was the 1993 and 1994 World All-Around Champion, said,  “I keep my medals in a safety deposit box for the most part, but I do bring them out often.”

Miller also values what the medals stand for, and how often athletes are so proud to display them in their own way, and to wear them for appearances and in pictures.

“I love the way people light up when they hold a medal,” Miller explained. “I think it reminds us of what we can achieve when we work hard and believe in ourselves and our team!”