The Reason Why Olympians Bite Their Medals Is Actually Very Bizarre!

gold medal canvas

We've all seen the iconic photos of the athletes chomping down on their medals, but why?

As the likes of Mo Farrah, Andy Murray and Max Whitlock strike gold at the Olympic games in Rio, it's got us wondering about the reasons behind one bizarre tradition that has seemingly gone unanswered until now.

If like us, you've seen pictures of athletes celebrating their win by sticking their teeth into a gold medal then you'll probably have been left very confused. 

Read more: Medal Winning Moments From The 2016 Rio Olympics 

Traditionally, the action stems from the old age practice of testing whether something was solid gold or not by biting it. 

Gold is actually a very soft metal and if it's pure, you should be able to leave teeth marks on it by sticking your gnashers into it. 

The practice of biting precious metals also allowed people to see if perhaps the gold object was really just gold plated, or whether it had been filled with cheaper metals like lead at the centre.

If so, the gold plating could be scraped off with your teeth and, because the gold coins weren't normally that thick, the gold plating tended to be fairly thin, so you didn’t have to bite too hard to discover whether it was pure gold or not.

Despite common misconception, the medals you see in the Olympics today aren't actually pure gold. 


They are actually SILVER coins plated with 24k gold. 

Read more: Leonardo Is That You? DiCaprio Doppleganger Spotted At Olympics 

So why are Olympians still so obsessed with biting them? 

"It’s become an obsession with the photographers,” David Wallechinsky, the president of the International Society of Olympic Historians, told CNN. “I think they look at it as an iconic shot, as something that you can probably sell. I don’t think it’s something the athletes would probably do on their own.”

Mystery solved!