Olympic Gold Canoeist Recovers 1992 Medal After It Is Found In Trash

A 46-year-old retired Olympian canoeist has recovered his historic 1992 medal after it was found in the trash by a 6-year-old girl in Atlanta.

Joe Jacobi was part of a two-man American team that made history at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Olympic Games by winning the gold medal in the whitewater slalom canoe competition. He lost his medal two weeks ago while dining at a restaurant in Atlanta.

Olympic winner Joe Jacobi competes in canoe.
Matt Taylor and Joe Jacobi compete in the Mens C-2 Class during the U.S. Olympic Whitewater Slalom Canoe/Kayak Team Trials on April 3, 2004 in Indiana. [Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images]

According to Fox 5 Atlanta, Jacobi and his wife, who live in Tennessee, were taking their daughter to Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to catch a plane when they stopped to have a meal at La Fonda Latina. While the family was eating, three men broke into their car and made away with Jacobi’s backpack, which contained his 1992 medal, Huffington Post reported. He was apparently carrying the medal around because he displays it during speaking engagements.

While most of the content of Jacobi’s backpack was recovered in the trash of a nearby abandoned building a few days later, his 1992 medal remained missing until now.

After the medal went missing, Jacobi and his wife started a social media campaign and built a website to try to spread the word with the hope that they would recover the priceless Olympic medal.

“We’re not interested in prosecuting; we’re just interested in trying to create an environment that makes it as easy as possible for that person to get the medal back to us,” Jacobi wrote on his website.

According to Huffington Post, the family of the 6-year-old girl named Chloe Smith, who found Jacobi’s medal, reached out to him through his website.

Chloe was reportedly taking a walk with her dad Wayne Smith along a road in a wooded area when she spotted the medal lying by the side of the road. Chloe was playing with the medal before her dad collected it and analyzed it. Smith admitted that he was so surprised and it took him about 20 minutes before he realized that his daughter had found a missing Olympic medal, CBS46 reported.

On Monday, Jacobi traveled to Atlanta to thank Chloe and her family personally and deliver the $500 reward that he had advertised for whosoever found the medal, Fox5 Atlanta reported.


On his website, Jacobi explains that only part of his 1992 medal has been found. While the top disc portion has been found, the base with the colorful Olympic ribbon attached and a pouch are still missing. The disc portion of the medal was originally attached to the base.

“We got back the top disc which has the Greek goddess of victory on it, the Olympic rings, and the 1992 Olympic markings,” he told WBS Radio. Jacobi noted that this is the most distinguishable part of the medal.

Jacobi has revealed on his website that a search would be conducted in the area where Chloe found the medal for the missing parts.

According to CBS46, as a way of thanking Chloe, Jacobi has expressed interest in visiting her school when she resumes and showing off the piece of his 1992 medal that she helped him recover. He has also revealed his plans of using the website he created to find his stolen medal to help other athletes who may be in a similar situation.

Jacobi told Huffington Post that he is considering leaving the medal as it is – without attempting to restore it – to preserve the story about how it was lost and found.

Jacobi has been spotted displaying his 1992 medal at a speaking event once again. He told WBS Radio that he is excited to share his medal with people once again. This time, he plans to add the latest story of his medal’s journey to his presentations.

It is unclear when the men, who stole Jacobi’s medal, abandoned it. Olympic gold medals are not made of gold. According to the Daily Mail, an Olympic gold medal is largely composed of silver and copper. While the medal is worth a really small amount of money to metal workers, it is clearly priceless to Jacobi.

[Photo by Robert Laberge/Getty Images]