In Addition Medals, US Olympians Receive Unique Rings

  • While every Olympic athlete is vying for a gold medal, members of Team USA receive special rings.
  • For champions like Shaun White, the ring represents a hard-won title and can be worn every day.
  • Since 2000, employee-appreciation firm OC Tanner has made each athlete’s ring by hand in the US.

Technically, there’s nothing stopping an Olympian from wearing their medal every day.

In reality however, such a display would likely draw some criticism — not to mention be sartorially awkward.

Fortunately for members of Team USA, there’s an alternative way to show off their pride: commemorative rings made and donated by Utah-based employee-appreciation firm OC Tanner.

“It’s a little more subtle than a medal,” Sandra Christensen, the company’s VP of awards, told Insider.

2022 Beijing Olympic and Paralympic rings from OC Tanner

OC Tanner

OC Tanner first started providing rings for Team USA Olympians and Paralympians in 2000 as the company’s home town of Salt Lake City was gearing up for the 2002 winter games.

In the decades since, the rings have become a cherished memento for champions like snowboarder Shaun White.

“This ring is really, really special to me,” White told GQ, counting his 2006 Torino ring as one of his most treasured possessions.

“This one is so special to me because it’s my first one,” White said. “I had no idea how my life was going to change after, and the magnitude of what I just accomplished.”

Reflecting on that historic half-pipe run 16 years ago, White recalled his mother’s words at the time: “Forever you will be known as Shaun White, the Olympic Gold Medalist — that title will carry with you the rest of your life.”

While every Team USA athlete is eligible to receive a ring, only gold medalists can choose to engrave theirs with the title.

In the days of paper order forms there was a checkbox to indicate “Gold Medalist,” which was the source of unease for some superstitious Olympics-bound athletes.

“They were like, ‘Talk to me after the games and I’ll let you know.'” Christensen said. “They wouldn’t check the box.”

Some goldists even decline to include their achievement medal on their ring, preferring instead to have it represent their status as a member of Team USA.

“This is the upper echelon, the best in the world at their sport,” Christensen said.

Although OC Tanner is headed in a digital direction, a 95-year-old company makes Olympians’ rings by hand at its Utah headquarters.

Making the Team USA Olympic and Paralympic rings

OC Tanner

The techniques and processes used to manufacture the rings have evolved over the decades from wax carvings to computer-aided design models, but the company maintains an archive of every ring it has ever made in the event that a replacement is needed.

In 2018, snowboarder Nick Baumgartner told the Denver Post he had returned his Olympic ring to be melted and reforged after his work as a concrete contractor damaged it.

“My occupation has completely destroyed it,” he said.

Christensen recalled working with him on the repair: “It literally had cement baked into the detail on it, it was smashed. I think he wore it every day.

Gold medallists Nick Baumgartner and Lindsey Jacobellis of the United States celebrate during the flower ceremony

Mike Blake/Reuters

When Baumgartner took the podium with Lindsey Jacobellis after the mixed team event last weekend, celebration photos revealed Baumgartner’s ring once again worn almost bare.

Maybe he’ll treat his gold medal ring more gently.

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