Whilst most athletes probably go to the Olympics dreaming of coming away with a gold, silver, or bronze medal, there is a fourth, much rarer, medal that they could win.
The Pierre de Coubertin medal is given to those who have showed incredible sportsmanship during the games. It’s not a common occurrence, with only 17 having been awarded in the history of the games.
The medal was introduced in 1964 and named in honour of the founder of the International Olympic Committee. The Olympic Museum states that “it is one of the noblest honours that can be bestowed upon an Olympic athlete.”
Some of those who have won the medal have done some incredible things. Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux abandoned his own finn class race in 1988, when placed second, to help two other sailors who had capsized.
Brazilian marathon runner Vanerlei de Lima is perhaps the most famous recipient. He was winning the marathon in the 2004 Athens Olympics when a protester attacked him with six miles to go. As a result he slipped sown to third place. He was awarded the medal for his sportsmanship in accepting bronze after being so harshly cheated.
The first ever winner of the medal was Luz Long of Germany. He picked up the award posthumously after sending a strong message to Adolf Hitler during the 1936 Olympics. Jesse Owens, who eventually won gold, had fouled his first two attempts in the long jump and was in danger of exiting the competition. Long pulled him aside and offered advice which helped Owens adavance in the competition. In the end Long took silver behind Owens, and took the brave step of befriending Owens in front of Hitler.
Will anyone be awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal this year? The most likely candidate is Yusra Mardini, the Syrian refugee who helped to rescue 20 others during a risky crossing of the Aegean Sea. The 18-year-old represented the Refugee Olympic Athletes Team in Rio.