Medal memories: Looking back at medal designs from the Olympic Winter Games
They kiss it, they bite it, they pose with it.
Olympic medals are always front and centre when comes time to celebrate the athletes who competed and won.
While the design of the medals may have been very conservative and traditional in the early days of the Olympic Winter Games, in recent years they have become extravagant creations by some of the world’s most praised artists. Here’s a look at what Olympic champions have been awarded over the last 30 years.
At its first home Winter Games, Team Canada won two silvers and one bronze in figure skating as well as two bronze medals in alpine skiing.
Canada’s Elizabeth Manley celebrates her silver medal win in the figure skating event at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. (CP PHOTO/COC/ C. McNeil)
The gold medal given to Bonnie Blair Cruikshank for winning the 500m Women’s Speed Skating event at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary is seen Sept. 24, 2007 at the “Olympic Gold” exhibition in New York. The exhibition showcases gold medals from Olympic and Paralympic athletes. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)
The front of the Calgary 1988 medal (Photo: opmedals.com)
Canada’s Karen Percy celebrates her bronze medal win in the alpine ski event at the 1988 Olympic Winter Games in Calgary. (CP PHOTO/ COC/S. Grant)
The front of the medal created by German designer Friedrich Peter sported the Games’ emblem, a hybrid between a maple leaf and a snowflake, while its back showcased the profile of an athlete wearing olive wreath. While so far that all sounds very conservative, at the forefront was an Aboriginal person whose headdress feathers were composed of ski poles, a bobsled, skis, skates, a hockey stick, a luge sled and a rifle. Business in the front, party in the back?
Team Canada had its best Olympic Winter Games medal haul in 60 years, including two gold medals.
Canada’s short track speed skating relay team silver medal winners from left; COCch Guy Daignault, Michel Daignault, Frederic Blackburn, Sylvain Gagnon, and Mark Lackie at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games. (CP PHOTO/COC/Ted Grant)
Men’s ice hockey bronze medal from Albertville 1992 (Photo: Hockeygods.com)
Canada’s Kerrin Lee-Gartner celebrates the gold medal she won in the women’s downhill at the Albertville 1992 Olympic Winter Games. (CP PHOTO/COC/F. Scott Grant)
The Olympic medals, made for the first time out of glass, were all hand cut by the craftsmen at Maison Lalique and set within the gold, silver and bronze metal. On the front were the five Olympic rings, with a valley in the background that gave the impression of perspective. It was on the back where the rings were engraved in the colourless glass with the lies symbolizing the French mountains. Let’s hope no athlete dropped their medal!
Team Canada’s medal total grew once again, this time to lucky 13.
Canada’s Jean-Luc Brassard celebrates after winning the gold medal in the men’s freestyle skiing moguls event at the Lillehammer 1994 Olympic Winter Games. (CP PHOTO/ COC/ Claus Andersen)
Ski jumping medals from Lillehammer 1994 (Photo: BBC News)
Canada’s Myriam Bedard shows off her two gold medals following the medal ceremony in Lillehammer Wednesday for the Olympic women’s 7.5km biathlon. Bedard also won the gold in the 15km event. (CP PHOTO) 1994 (stf-Ron Poling)
F0llowing in the footsteps of the French hosts two years earlier, the Norwegians also incorporated another material into the traditional metals used for Olympic medals. Granite, or specifically sparagmite, is present in large quantities in Norway and represents that which the country’s inhabitants love most: nature. While the front is rather classic with the Olympic rings, the work of designer Ingjerd Hanevold in the back includes the pictogram for the sport in which the medal was awarded.
Four years later, Canada improved its record haul by winning 15 medals, including six golds in Japan.
Canada’s Short Track Speed Skating relay team Annie Perreault, Tania Vicent, Christine Boudrias and Isabelle Charest, left to right, wave from the podium after winning the Olympic bronze medal in the ladies 3,000m relay Tuesday in Nagano. (CP PHOTO) 1998 (stf/Paul Chiasson)
Catriona Le May Doan (right) and Susan Auch celebrate their gold and silver medals in long track speed skating’s 500m at Nagano 1998.
The Nagano 1998 medals (Photo: Olympic Artifacts)
Canadians Jeremy Wotherspoon (left) and Kevin Overland (right) celebrate after winning respectively bronze and silver medals in the 500m long track speed skating event of the Nagano 1998 Olympic Winter Games.(CP PHOTO/COC)
NAGANO, JAPAN, Feb. 8–GOLD–Ross Rebagliati of Whistler, B.C. holds h is gold medal after placing first in the Olympic Giant Slalom Snowboarding competition in Nagano, Japan, Sunday. (CP PHOTO)1998(stf-Frank Gunn)fxc
Honoring local traditions, the 1998 Olympic Winter Games medals were created using Japanese lacquer techniques. On one side we see the rising sun surrounded by an olive wreath and the emblem of the Games. On the other side, it is the mountains of the Sinshu Prefecture that are honored. I do not know about you, but just by staring at the Nagano medal, I feel more zen.
With 10 new events in the 2002 Olympic program, Team Canada took the opportunity to raise its record medal count to 17.
Canadian gold medallist in the women’s 500m speed skating, Catriona Le May Doan, shows off her medal in Salt Lake City, Utah Friday Feb. 15, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (CP PHOTO/HO/COC/Andre Forget)
Team Canada goalie Martin Brodeur kisses his gold medal after they won over Team USA to win the gold medal in hockey Sunday Feb. 24, 2002 at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. Team Canada won 5-2 over Team USA. (CP Photo/COC/Andre Forget)
Gold medalists David Pelletier and Jamie Sale stand next to Russians Anton Sikharulidze and Elena Berezhnaya as they show off thier gold medals Sunday Feb. 17, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. (CP Photo/HO/COC/Andre Forget)
The medals of Salt Lake City 2002 (Photo: Pinterest)
Canadian Women’s Curling team (left to right) Cheryl Noble, of Victoria, Kelley Law, of Coquitlam, B.C., Diane Nelson, of Burnaby, B.C., Julie Skinner, of Victoria, and Georgina Wheatcroft, of Victoria, show off their bronze medals Thursday Feb. 21, 2002, at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. They beat Team USA to bring home the bronze. (CP Photo/COC/Andre Forget)
On the front of the medals worn by Canadian medallists, we see a man rising from the flames with a torch, representing the resilience of the human spirit and the power to inspire. The phrase “Light the Fire Within” is engraved on the front of the medal, marking the first time that a Games motto is written on an Olympic medal.
Canadian women’s hockey team member Hayley Wickenheiser shows off her Olympic gold medal at a press conference in Calgary Wednesday Feb. 27, 2002. (CP PHOTO/Jeff McIntosh)
Canadian short track gold medalist Marc Gagnon raises his arms after being awarded the gold medal in the men’s 500 metre Saturday Feb. 23, 2002 at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City. He also won gold for the men’s 5,000 metre relay. (CP Photo/COC/Andre Forget)
At the back, Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, holds a small leaf, symbolizing the olive wreaths that were presented to the winners of the Games in ancient Greece. Within Nike’s embrace is a representation of the event associated with the medal. At the base of the ribbon loop is the Roman number XIX for the 19th edition of the Olympic Winter Games. Every medal had a slightly unique shape, designed in the form of river rocks, such as those found in Utah waters to make them part modern and part rustic. It is the first time since Sarajevo 1984 that the medals are not perfectly round.
For the seventh consecutive time, Canada broke its medal record in 2006, achieving 24 podium finishes and reaching the top three in the medal table.
Canada’s Duff Gibson celebrates his gold medal during the medal ceremony for the Men’s Skeleton competition at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy, Saturday Feb 18, 2006. (AP Photo/Greg Baker)
Canada’s Brad Gushue, Mark Nichols, Russ Howard, Jamie Korab and Mike Adam celebrate after recieving their gold medals in curling at the 2006 Olympic Winter Games in Turin, Italy Saturday, Feb. 25, 2006.(CP PHOTO/Ryan Remiorz)
Cindy Klassen holds her five medals won at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games.
Men’s bronze medallist Canada’s Jeffrey Buttle from Sudbury, Ont. shows off his medal during victory ceremonies following the men’s free program at the Turin 2006 Olympic Winter Games Thursday, Feb. 16, 2006 in Turin. (CP PHOTO/Paul Chiasson)
Some saw it as a donut, others viewed it as a CD. The Turin 2006 medals stood out for their shape rather than what was engraved on it. At the front of the 107mm diameter disc – which is, by the way, the largest in Winter Olympic history and almost 25% larger than those from four years earlier – we find the graphic elements of the Games while at the back is the event in which the medal was won. The hole in the centre was mean to reveal the place where the heart beats.
Unlike the first two times that the Olympic Games were held on Canadian soil and Canada won no gold medals, in 2010 the country had a record number of first place finishes. The 14 gold medals were the most ever by any country at a Winter Games, while the 26 total medals is still a national record.
Canadian bobsleigh gold medallists Kaillie Humphries, left, and Heather Moyse pose with their medals at the awards ceremony on Thursday February, 25, 2010 at the Whistler Olympic Park during the 2010 Olympic Winter Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jeff McIntosh
Tessa Virtue of London, Ont. and Scott Moir of Ilderton, Ont. do a victory lap with their gold medals in ice dance at the Pacific Coliseum at the Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C, Monday, Feb. 22, 2010. (CP PHOTO)2010(HO-COC-Mike Ridewood)
Women’s 5000 metre long track speedskating bronze medalist Clara Hughes, of Canada, holds her medal during the medals ceremony at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver, B.C., on Wednesday February 24, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Canada’s gold medalist Charles Hamelin kisses his medal after winning the men’s 500 metre final in the short track speed skating competition Friday February 26, 2010 at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Canada’s Jennifer Heil celebrates her silver medal for ladies moguls in freestyle skiing Sunday Feb. 14, 2010 at the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Winter Games. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz
The wavy shape of the medals was designed by Omer Arbel, an industrial designer and architect from Vancouver, and required the medal to be struck nine times as part of the 30-step manufacturing process (are we assembling Ikea furniture or creating Olympic medals here?). The inspiration for these medals comes from artwork of an orca whale by Corrine Hunt, a artist of aboriginal descent. Each of the medals has a different section of the artwork carved on its front side, which makes them all unique.
Canada sent its largest ever Winter Games contingent to Sochi. Composed of 222 athletes, the Canadian team collected 25 medals, which is the country’s best performance at a Winter Games held on foreign soil.
Kaillie Humphries and Heather Moyse receive the gold medal in women’s bobsleigh at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Thursday, Feb. 20, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC – Winston Chow
Team Canada captain Sidney Crosby celebrates with other Canada players after defeating Team Sweden to win the gold medal in Olympic final action at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Sunday February 23, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Charles Hamelin receives his gold medal in men’s 1500 metre short track speed skating at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, Monday, Feb. 10, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, COC – Mike Ridewood
Canada’s Dominique Maltais holds up her silver medal for Ladies’ Snowboard Cross during the medal ceremony at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games Sunday February 16, 2014 in Sochi, Russia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Sochi 2014 Medals (Photo: Sochi 2014)
The patchwork quilt mosaic found at the centre of the medals (made of gold, silver, bronze and polycarbonate) is designed according to the tradition of various cultures and ethnicities in Russia. The medal-cutting represents the landscape of Sochi with its snow-capped peaks that reflect the sun’s rays on the sandy beaches of the Black Sea coast.
Since they do nothing like anywhere else in Russia, the seven gold medallists on February 15, 2014 received a medal that contained meteor dust from the meteor that landed in Russia one year earlier. Yes, seven Olympic champions received a medal made of materials from space! Unfortunately for us, no Canadian climbed to the top of the podium that day.