An Olympic medalist is the winner of a medal in one of the Olympic Games. There are three classes of medal: Gold, Silver and Bronze. The winner is awarded the gold medal, the runner-up the silver medal, and the third place competitor is awarded the bronze medal. Some countries, besides supporting all their Olympic athletes, pay sums of money and gifts to medal winners depending on the classes and number of medals won. Any medal win is seen as a great achievement.
A silver medal was awarded to the winner of each event during the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens, Greece.
The custom of the sequence of gold-silver-bronze for the first three places dates from the 1904 games and has been adopted by many other sporting events. The International Olympic Committee has retroactively assigned gold, silver, and bronze medals to competitors who earned 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place finishes, respectively, in order to bring early Olympics in line with current awards. Note that medals were not awarded at the ancient games; in 1896, winners received a silver medal and the second place received a bronze medal and in 1900, most winners received cups or trophies instead of medals.
Minting of the medals is the responsibility of the host city.
Two unusual medals for winning a race went to:
- Stanley Rowley from Australia in the 1900 Summer Olympics; who won a medal without even finishing the race (in a mixed team). For the 5000 metre team race only the results of the top four of the five in each team counted, so officials decided it was pointless for him to continue running.
- Wyndham Halswelle from Great Britain in the 1908 Summer Olympics; who won a gold medal in the 400m race in a walkover as the two other athletes he was to run against refused to take part in the rerun.
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