While we often tend to think that winning a gold, silver or bronze medal at the Olympics would be the pinnacle of achievement for any athlete, you might be surprised to learn that there's actually a fourth medal that athletes can win and they're given out even more rarely than the coveted gold medals!
In fact, arguably, winning the Pierre de Coubertin medal (named after the founder of the modern Olympic games) might even be a more important and valuable achievement than winning a gold medal. The Pierre de Coubertin medal isn't necessarily given out for doing particularly well in a sport, it's a special award given to those who truly show the Olympic spirit and exemplify Olympic values of good sportsmanship, fairness, and decency, or for their service to the games.
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The stories behind some of those that have won the medal in the past are pretty inspiring too. Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima (above), a Brazilian marathon runner was presented with one at the 2004 Olympic games after a fan leapt out of the crowd and tackled him when he'd been in first place. As a result of this incident Vanderlei only managed to win bronze, but instead of raising hell and demanding the gold that was rightfully his, Vanderlei calmly stated 'It's bronze but means gold.' For his calm response, Vanderlei was given the Pierre de Coubertin medal and gained the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron in his home country.
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Another incredible story comes from the 1936 Olympic games that were held in Berlin just on the brink of World War Two. Jesse Owens was struggling to qualify for the long jump until his German rival Luz Long advised him where to place his foot. With this advice, Jesse not only qualified but took him the gold medal in the long jump. Luz and Jesse then made a powerful statement by embracing in front of Adolf Hitler, a controversial move at the time since Jesse was black and Luz was white. They remained friends throughout the war and Luz was posthumously presented with the Pierre de Coubertin medal after his death in 1964.
Other winners of the Pierre de Coubertin award have committed such selfless acts as lending their own equipment to members of rival teams, and even saving another team from drowning.
There have already been some incredible acts at the 2016 Rio Olympic games but are any of them worthy of the de Coubertin medal? Time will tell, we suppose...
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