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Paralympic Medals Rattle So Visually Impaired Athletes Can Identify Them

"We call it, 'The sound of victory.'"

14/09/2016 7:53 AM AEST | Updated September 14, 2016 07:53
Buda Mendes via Getty Images
Silver medalist Tharon Drake of the United States listens to the sound of his medal on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Men's 400m Freestyle.

Paralympic medal winners now look and sound like champions.

That’s because when the gold, silver and bronze medals for the 2016 games in Rio are shaken, they each make a different noise. The new feature gives visually impaired athletes another way to identify which medal they’ve won.

Victor Hugo Berbert, the manager in charge of the new sound element, told the International Business Times that he hopes the addition leads to more design elements that promote inclusivity

“That the next games bring other sensory elements for the athletes and that this might carry on,” he told the outlet.

Buda Mendes via Getty Images
Gold medalist Bradley Snyder of the United States rattles his medal on the podium for the Men's 400m Freestyle.

Each of the 2,642 medals made for the Paralympic games has a device inside with a different number of steel balls, giving each color a different tone, according to the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games’ site.

We call it, ‘The sound of victory.’ Tânia Martins, brand manager for the 2016 Summer Games

The bronze medals, for instance, have 16 steel balls, producing the lowest noise. Silver medals have 20 balls, creating a slightly higher rattle and the gold medals have 28, generating the loudest tone. You can hear three sound levels in the video below: 

All of the medals also have “Rio 2016 Paralympic Games” written on them in braille. 

The aim was to give athletes who are visually impaired a more personalized commemoration.

Friedemann Vogel via Getty Images
Gold medalist Mary Fisher of New Zealand shakes her medal on the podium for the Women's 100m Backstroke.

“To not just be able to show the medal, but for those who have a visual or sensory impairment to be able to feel it not just by touching it, not just with the Braille that is on it, but with its sound,” Berbert, told IBT.

Friedemann Vogel via Getty Images
Ellie Cole of Australia holds her silver medal up to her ear on the podium at the medal ceremony for the Women's 400m Freestyle.

The idea for the addition occurred when designer Claudia Gamboa had an “ah-ha” moment one day while a team was thinking of ways to improve the medals, Dalcacio Reis, the Olympics’ design manager, told Public Radio International.

“We just said, ‘Oh my God! Let’s try to do it,’” Reis told the outlet.

Friedemann Vogel via Getty Images
Maja Reichard of Sweden rattles her bronze medal after the Women's 100m Backstroke.

It took the team a few months to add the new design element, but once they were done, they were pleased with the results. Tânia Martins, brand manager for the 2016 Summer Games told PRI:

“We call it, ‘The sound of victory.’’” 

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