How Many Types of Olympic Medals Are Awarded?

Here's a tough trivia question for all of you sports buffs: What's harder to win than an Olympic gold medal?

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Woman holding a book

Awarded only a handful of times in history, the answer is the Pierre de Coubertin medal, an honor presented for outstanding sportsmanship at the Olympic Games. The medal, named for the founder of the International Olympic Committee, was first presented in 1964 to Eugenio Monti, an Italian bobsledder who gave his British rivals a bolt for their bobsled. They went on to win gold, while Monti took bronze -- and the coveted Pierre de Coubertin medal.

The stories connected to the prize are as exemplary as the athletes, ranging from Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux ditching his chances at victory to save the lives of a capsized Singapore squad to German long jumper Luz Long defying his Nazi hosts and befriending American Jesse Owens.

"You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn't be a plating on the twenty-four karat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment," Owens said about Long, who was awarded the medal posthumously. As of 2020, 26 people have been awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal.

Golden moments at the Olympics:

  • Four days after losing her mother to a heart attack, Canadian figure skater Joannie Rochette persevered and won bronze at the 2010 Olympics.

  • After years of animosity between their nations, North and South Korean squads marched together under a unified flag to open the 2000 Olympics.

  • At the 1992 Games, 400-meter favorite Derek Redmond tore his hamstring but finished the race after his father ran from the stands to help him walk.

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