Olympics come and go every four years and many things change—the amount of crystals on the gymnasts’ leotards, athletes rocking the sickest nail art, and Olympians playing Pokemon Go during their off time. But one thing has stayed the same for decades: Photos of winners biting their prize. They look so happy sinking their teeth into the new, shinny medal as if to say, “Yes this is all mine, so much that I will even eat it.” But, why is this necessary?
Thankfully, Simon Whistler of the video series “Today I Found Out,” created a video that explains the whole situation. Whistler says that, according to Olympian Summer Sanders, the only reason why athletes are seen photographed biting their medals is because photographers incessantly ask them to do it at the podium photo sessions (were guessing it’s easy to ask a person to do anything right after they’ve won a gold Olympic medal) and it makes for an engaging and fun photo. But, the act actually stems from an age old practice of testing whether something was really gold.
“Gold is a very soft metal, at least softer than tooth enamel, and if it’s fairly pure, you should be able to leave some tooth marks in it by biting it,” Whistler says in the video. This practice also allowed people to test whether something was real gold or gold plated, as the gold plating will easily just slide off a material if you bite it. The Olympic gold medals haven’t been made from solid gold since 1912, but they do have a 24-karat gold plating. Check out the video below to learn more about why Olympians bite into their medals:
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