olympics bite medal

Olympians Biting Medals Explained

For as long as we’ve watched the Olympics, the iconic post of a medalist bizarrely biting down on the medal they’ve just won has been a “thing.”

It would seem from photographs that Olympic medalists are overcome with a medal-munching urge that sets in almost as soon as the massive achievement is earned, and the athlete feels bound to bite into the gold medallion the minute they’re crowned. Or medaled. Whatever.

Olympic athletes biting medals seems to be a tradition nearly as old as the Olympics itself, which is a pretty old thing. And while we are used to the image of an Olympian with a medal in their mouth, most of us still wonder why the practice is so iconic and ingrained.

If you are like me, you may have assumed it was a kind of tongue-in-cheek “is this thing real?” visual quip made by the newly-minted medalists, and, according to CNN, the practice does have its roots in a time where counterfeiting was more a concern of medalists. Nowadays, medals are only a small percentage gold even when they are gold medals.

So biting into a medal was something that used to be common to make sure it wasn’t made out of lead or arsenic or whatever they made stuff out of back when people knew about these things. But now, experts say, Olympic athletes bite medals for another money-related reason … so photographers can sell pics.

David Wallechinsky, president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, told CNN that it basically comes down to the fact that other than wearing it, biting it is the only pose one can strike with Olympic gold:

“It’s become an obsession with the photographers… 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.”

Are you tired of the “biting the gold medal” pose so many Olympic athletes are made to strike?