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OLYMPIC REVIEW51OLYMPIC MEDALSAsk any athlete what he or she is aiming forat the next Olympic Games, and you canbe sure of one answer: a medal. Preferablygold. In fact, the word "athlete" actually comes fromthe Greek for "one who competed for prizes". And yet,although we often talk about winners - who's won themost (surprisingly it's not Michael Phelps; LarisaLatynina, a gymnast from the then Soviet Union holdsthe record with 18 medals), who was the oldest(Sweden's Oscar Swahn, for shooting, aged 72 yearsand 279 days), or who was the youngest (either anunidentified French boy who coxed the Dutch pairsrowing team in 1900, or more officially, the Greekgymnast Dimitrios Loundras, who finished third at thetender age of 10 years and 218 days in 1896) - wedon't speak much about the medals themselves. So you might not know that each medal is astandard size: at least 60mm across and 3mm thick.You might also be unaware that the gold medal isactually silver (at least 92.5 per cent) coated with atleast six grams of 24-carat gold, or that the bronzemedal is mainly made up of copper. And while the firstthree athletes at the Games receive a gold, silver anda bronze medal respectively, this hasn't always beenthe case (third to eighth places were awarded bronzemedals in the individual fencing events at the 1908Games in London, for example). It is also the case that at the ancient Olympiadsthere were no medals to be won, and even at the early modern Olympic Games the winner did notreceive a gold medal. Winners at the ancient OlympicGames in Olympia received two kinds of award: apalm branch immediately after the event, and later, onthe last day of the Games, a sacred olive wreathawarded at the temple of Zeus. When the Games werereintroduced in 1896 the awards ceremony naturallypaid tribute to this: those who came first wereawarded an olive branch, and those who camesecond, a branch of laurel. Both competitors were alsogiven a diploma, and a medal designed by Frenchartist Jules-Clément Chaplain - silver for first, andcopper for second. Both medals were 50mm indiameter and bore the image of Zeus on one side andthe site of the Acropolis on the other. Inscribed inGreek were the words "International Olympic Games in Athens in 1896".Even so, the medal wasn't yet fully established asa symbol of Olympic victory; four years later, in Paris,competitors were mainly awarded cups and trophies -and one was given an umbrella. It wasn't until the ?BelowThe medals for the 1992 Winter Games inAlbertville were created in glass for the first time and were entirely handmadeLeftCanadian pairKaillie Humphriesand HeatherMoyse celebratewith theirbobsleigh goldmedals at the2010 WinterGames inVancouver