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The Story Behind the Medals' Design

by Alison High / San Jose Sharks

Olympic medals are a lot heavier than they look.

Spanning over the outstretched palm of your hand, the 2010 Vancouver medals are impressive. Among the heaviest in Olympic history, the medals are 100 millimeters in diameter, six millimeters thick and weigh between 500 and 576 grams, or slightly over a pound.

It might not sound like a lot, but it feels like a lot. The mass outweighs your expectations. Maybe it’s a mind thing --- knowing what the medal represents --- but the awe of the award seems to give it more density than its actual weight.

Four of the five Olympic medals won by members of the Sharks.
When Sharks medal-winning Olympians Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, Dan Boyle and Joe Pavelski walked into Tuesday’s press conference with their medals draped around their necks, everyone held their breath. A lifetime of work went into that pound of metal. And here they are, worn by five Sharks players.

The four gold medals won by the members of Team Canada and the one silver worn by America’s Pavelski were all similarly shaped, but not exactly alike. The front has a hand-cropped section of a master artwork of an orca whale, overlapping the darker backdrop of the medal. In the lower right-hand corner, the five Olympic rings are raised so you can feel them if you run your fingers over the first-place honor.

Each Olympic medal is unique. The one-of-a-kind image comes from Corrie Hunt, a Canadian designer and artist of Komoyue and Tlingit heritage that’s based in Vancouver. When the Sharks received their medals, they were also given a silk scarf printed with Hunt’s master artwork, enabling them to see how their medal connects with the whole design.

Flip the medal over and the reverse side has French and English inscriptions stating “XXI OLYMPIC WINTER GAMES” with “MEN’S ICE HOCKEY” engraved underneath it. The Vancouver Olympic emblem is raised in the bottom right corner with a background of smooth gold.

Joe Thornton's gold medal.
The medal’s form was inspired by ocean waves, drifting snow and the mountainous landscapes found across Canada. To create the look of hills and valleys, the medal was stuck nine times as part of the 30-step medal fabrication process. Each medal is different, but if you stack one on top of the other, they’ll nearly fit together like puzzle pieces.

The Games’ motto, “With Glowing Hearts/Des Plus Brillants Exploits,” is written in white lettering on the medal’s blue and green ribbon.

Sharks fans are invited to view five of the Olympic medals --- four gold and one silver --- at Tuesday’s game at HP Pavilion. They will be on display outside the Sharks Foundation Booth until the conclusion of the second intermission.
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