There's something special about the gold, silver, and bronze this year.
First thing first: Let's all agree that having an Olympic or Paralympic medal placed around your neck is awesome. But when you're a visually impaired Paralympian, it's tough to tell what kind of medal you're actually holding—gold, silver, or bronze. Or at least, it was tough to tell. Thanks to new technology built into all 2,642 medals, that's no longer a problem.
For the first time, all of the athletes making a podium finish in Rio will receive a medal that has small, steel balls placed inside. When you give it a shake, the balls produce a distinct sound that's unique to the type of medal earned, making it easier to identify. Gold medals contain 28 balls and make the loudest noise, while silver medals have 20 balls for a slightly lower-pitched tone. Bronze have 16, producing the quietest sound.
But that's not the only thing that makes these medals unique: Each one also has "Rio 2016 Paralympic Games" embossed in Braille, alongside engraved images of seeds to represent "the courage, persistence, and development of athletes," according to the Organizing Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
Victor Hugo Berbert, who was in charge of developing the new sound element, told the International Business Times that he hopes the addition leads to more inclusive design elements in the future. "[The goal was] 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," he said.
Tânia Martins, brand manager for the 2016 Summer Games, echoed that sentiment, telling Public Radio International, "We call it, 'The sound of victory.''"
And for those focused on sustainability, these medals hit a high note there too. The top medals are made from "gold that has been extracted without the use of mercury and which was produced according to strict sustainability criteria," says the committee's site. Thirty percent of the silver and bronze medals are made from recycled materials, and half of the plastic in the ribbons comes from recycled plastic bottles.
Can't get enough of the Paralympic Games? Make sure you know about these 7 badass female veterans competing over in Rio.