Are the Olympic gold medals not made of real gold? Chinese Olympian Zhu Xueying won the gold in gymnastics for the trampoline but now says the medal seems to be peeling.
“#olympicmedal Was your medal … peeling off like this?” the 23-year-old athlete asked on Weibo, the Chinese social media platform. She also shared an image of the gold medal, with the peeling shown in the upper left corner.
Zhu said that she thought it was just dirt, according to TMZ, but that the spot grew larger as she picked at it. “Let me clarify this… I didn’t mean to peel the thing off at first,” she wrote. Zhu then posted the photo to ask other gold medal winners “if any other athlete experienced the same thing.”
Unsurprisingly, the gold medals at the Olympics are not made entirely of solid gold, the Olympic Committee confirmed to Zhu Xueying. The medals are made from mostly silver and recycled materials, coated with only 6 grams of gold.
Weighing at around 556 grams, a solid gold medal from the Olympics would have been worth around $34,700, and the Olympics gave out 339 medals in Tokyo. That would be quite an expensive endeavor for the Olympic Committee, who told Xueying that all that was peeling was the protective coating, claiming that the medal is completely fine.
“It does not affect the quality of the medal itself,” the Committee said.
The Olympic Committee can also replace a medal, for a fee, according to TMZ. They keep a mold of the medal and can make a new one quite easily. Some of the recycled materials were donated by Japanese citizens, and the medal was formed through bits of mobile phones and other electronic devices.
Commenters responded to Zhu Xueying’s post arguing that they believed Olympians deserved something more valuable, but the Olympic Committee maintained that they chose to use recycled materials as an experiment for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo in order to be more environmentally conscious.
“The medal’s value can be defined by the symbolic meaning behind it, not just how expensive the materials used to make it are,” Dylan Yang, a Chinese designer told The Global Times. “The same goes for China’s jade and gold medals. Japan’s recycling design actually represents the idea of sustainability and consciousness. These things are regarded as virtues in Japanese culture.”
“I didn’t think I would get a gold medal, but I think my performance was more stable compared to my practice,” Xueying said after winning the Women’s Trampoline Gymnastics event. “I put in a lot of effort to reach the podium.”
Scoring 56.635, Zhu Xueying took home the gold medal to defeat Canada’s Rosie MacLennan, the defending champion from the 2016 Olympics in Rio who did not score high enough to place on the podium in Tokyo. Behind her was fellow-teammate Liu Lingling of China, who took home the silver, and Britain’s Bryony Page, who won the bronze medal. The reigning world champion, Japan’s Hikaru Mori, did not qualify for the final round. It was China’s first medal in the Trampoline event since 2008.
“With the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 being postponed for a year, I had more time to work to prepare and I made an effort to work on the things I wanted to improve,” Zhu said.
“It was a pleasure to watch,” the announcers said during her performance on the trampoline. “Beautiful lines set up by Zhu Xueying. She’s done it easily.”
The protective coating was not meant to peel off the gold medal, but the Olympic Committee said an investigation will be put forth should other gold medalists report similar findings.
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