Here is why athletes bite their medals

Abhishek Sandikar
Thursday, 29 July 2021

The popularity of this trend can also be explained by the ‘Bandwagon Effect’. Read more to find out.

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics has already given us some memorable moments. Be it Momiji Nishiya, who became the youngest gold medalist after her dominant victory in women’s street skateboarding or Richard Carapaz’s unreal comeback to win the gold in the men’s road cycling event. All these victories, however, are often capped off with the iconic medal-biting photo. But have you ever thought about why athletes bite their medals? We delved into the issue and found something interesting.

One of the most logical reasons for biting the medal was to check the authenticity. The action was prevalent during the Gold Rush in the USA. As gold is a soft metal and can be gnawed by human teeth, people bit shiny gold like objects to understand whether it was authentic gold or pyrite (fool’s gold). One of the first pictures of an athlete biting their medal was in 1991 by the World Championship winning Great Britain 4x100m team.

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Today, though, it has become a mandatory (sort of) pose insisted by sports photographers around the world. David Wallechinsky, the president of the International Society of Olympic Historians feels it is an obsession. He said, “It’s become an obsession with the photographers” in an interview with CNN.

The popularity of this trend can also be explained by the ‘Bandwagon Effect’, which is a cognitive bias that pushes individuals into thinking or acting in a specific way if they suspect others are doing the same.

It is interesting to see how gold biting has watered down to a pose. This action has probably helped several people whose lives depended on gold. But today, it is just a pose that symbolises victory.

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