What happens to all of the Olympic hardware once the last medal is awarded and the torch is extinguished? It depends on the Olympian—but a surprising number of medals find homes in sock and underwear drawers. Here are 12 winners who made a different choice.
1. CARL LEWIS: HIS FATHER'S CASKET
Nine-time gold medalist in track and field for the U.S.
At his father’s funeral in 1987, Lewis left the medal he won for the 100-meter in the casket with his dad. When his mother seemed shocked, Lewis told her that it was no big deal; he planned to get another one. He was right. At the Seoul Games in 1988, Lewis originally got the silver in the 100-meter but later claimed gold when Canadian Ben Johnson lost the medal for steroid use.
2. CHRISTIE RAMPONE: IN POTS AND PANS
Rampone (left) keeps her medals in a rather unorthodox place: in her pots and pans in the kitchen. “I figure, who’s going to look in the kitchen?” she said. She may move them now that the world knows her secret hiding place.
3. SHANNON MILLER: AROUND HER SON'S NECK
While she keeps her medals in a safe deposit box most of the time, she admits that her son gets a kick out of donning them: “Rocco, my son, wears my gold medal around the house. He gives me the silver. I guess I know who's boss in our house.”
4. KIM RHODE: IN HER BACK POCKET
Back when she just had a couple of medals, Rhode liked to tote the hardware around with her. “A lot of times they’re with me or in my back pocket as I used to carry them when I was younger,” she said.
5. SHAUN WHITE: UNDER A BOOK AT HIS AGENT'S HOUSE
Sure, he has 12 gold medals from the Winter X Games, but there’s something special about the Olympic golds. So special, in fact, that his mom had one of the medals dry cleaned after the ribbon became dirty from making the talk show rounds. Prior to that, the Flying Tomato left a medal with his agent—and sort of forgot about it. “I called my agent randomly and said, ‘Hey, you have my medal, right?’ He gasped—he said his heart just dropped. But he found it. It was in a dresser under a book in his house.”
6. BONNIE BLAIR: IN HER COFFEE TABLE
Once you start racking up the medals, it gets slightly more challenging to display them. That wasn't a problem for Bonnie Blair, who had a coffee table custom-made in the shape of the Olympic rings to showcase them. "A very good friend made it for me. It's got a glass top. It's one of the most unique pieces of furniture I can imagine, and I can share it with anybody that comes to the house. It's very cool. It's something that I'm very proud of."
7. CAITLYN JENNER: WITH HER NAIL POLISH
Decathlon gold medalist for the U.S. in 1976
“Actually I looked the other day and the medal was in my nail drawer, with all my nail colors and everything,” Jenner recently told H&M.
8. AND 9. KRISTI YAMAGUCHI AND TARA LIPINSKI: THE WORLD FIGURE SKATING MUSEUM
Both won a gold medal for women’s single figure skating
“I have always been nervous of it getting lost, stolen or even damaged,” Yamaguchi has said. “It is made of Lalique crystal so it's beautiful but very fragile too. I prefer to keep it in one place so it lessens the chance of it getting damaged.”
10. LINDSEY VONN: HER NIGHTSTAND
U.S. Alpine ski racer and winner of one gold and one bronze medal
“ I keep my Olympic medals right by my bed, in my nightstand,” she wrote to a young fan. “I don’t take them out very often but sometimes if I’ve been having a bad day, I will take them out and remember the positives, remember that hard work pays off and that keeps me going.”
11. BOB SUTER: HIS SON'S SCHOOL LOCKER
Gold medalist and member of the "Miracle on Ice" 1980 U.S. hockey team
Ryan Suter took his father's hardware to show-and-tell at school every year—and it didn't always make it home. Sometimes it sat in his locker for weeks before making it back to the Olympian. "I didn't realize how special it was," Ryan said. Someday, Ryan can send his own medal to school with his kids—he won a silver with the U.S. hockey team at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver.
12. IAN THORPE: A BANK VAULT
Australian swimmer and nine-time medalist (five gold, three silver, and one bronze)
Ian Thorpe made waves at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney when he dominated the medal stand at just 17 years old. He left them in a bank vault—and didn't look at them for a decade, when he had a photo shoot to mark the 10-year anniversary of his achievements in Sydney.
THE SOCK DRAWER CLUB
Here’s a list of athletes who have admitted to keeping their medals tucked between balled-up socks at some point:
- Apolo Anton Ohno, short track speed skating (two golds, two silver, four bronze)
- Angela Ruggiero, women’s ice hockey (one gold, two silver, one bronze)
- Susan Francia, rowing (two golds)
- Jessica Mendoza, softball (one gold, one silver)
- Henry Cejudo, freestyle wrestling (one gold)
- Brenda Villa, water polo (two silver, one bronze)
- Natalie Coughlin, swimming (three gold, four silver, five bronze)
- Mary Lou Retton, gymnastics (one gold, two silver, two bronze)
- Sue Bird, basketball (three gold)