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A gold medal for design

17 Apr 2019
Olympic News, Lausanne 2020, YOG
With the public competition to design the coveted medals awarded to athletes at the Winter Youth Olympic Games (YOG) Lausanne 2020 closing this month, we look back at the winning designs that featured at the five previous editions of the Games.

A fabled podium finish at the Olympic Games is a feat that few athletes ever achieve. The resulting gold, silver or bronze medal is an indelible reminder of their exploits and, since the inaugural YOG Singapore 2010, the IOC has commissioned exclusive medal designs to celebrate its victorious young competitors.

The first-ever YOG medal was called “Yes Youth Can”, created by Japan’s Setsuko Fukuzawa for the Games in Singapore. Featuring flowing flames and waves in the background, “Yes Youth Can” depicted a stylised athlete in the foreground – the Y-shaped body is reminiscent of the Goddess Nike and also stands for Youth. The reverse, designed by the Organising Committee, featured the mythical lion synonymous with Singapore, as well as the emblem for the Games.

“I wanted the design to be very clean and modern,” Fukuzawa said. “For me, this means simplicity to deliver a clear message. ‘Yes Youth Can’ represents every young athlete in a victory stand, celebrating. Simple, but powerful. I wanted something that would make winners of this medal remember and feel the moment they won it.”

The inaugural Winter YOG in Innsbruck two years later saw responsibility for the medals (372 of which were awarded during the Games) fall to the Organising Committee, in partnership with engraver Herbert Wähner from the Austrian Mint.

Their collaboration resulted in the obverse showing the Olympic rings, snowflakes and an olive branch, in a nod to the ancient Games. The reverse of the medal featured Olympic torches and a series of pixels, a reference to the growing influence and possibilities of the internet and social media.

A competition was reinstated for the medal design ahead of the YOG Nanjing 2014, and the eventual winner was 23-year-old Slovakian Matej Čička, with a design he entitled “Track of Winners”, beating more than 300 other hopefuls from over 50 countries.

Described by the IOC judging panel as “modern, fresh and dynamic”, his design depicted the Olympic rings combined with an abstract representation of a running track. The reverse was a stylised view of Nanjing, combining the ancient city wall gate, traditional architecture, the Qinhuai River and the city’s famous plum blossoms.

“It was our school task to join this competition and design a medal,” Čička explained. “So I drew a lot of sketches and spoke with a teacher to choose the best one. I was inspired by the athletes’ track which, to me, means the basis of the Youth Olympic Games. So I put it into my concept and used different shapes to represent the winning athletes and the podium.”

The Winter YOG Lillehammer 2016 continued the design competition format, and once again over 300 people entered, this time from 65 different countries. The winning concept, entitled “To the Top”, came from 20-year-old Romanian Burzo Ciprian.

The main image of “To the Top” was one of stylised Scandinavian mountains, while the straight lines that framed the inscription “2nd Winter Youth Olympic Games” appeared to have been carved out by skis or skates. The reverse of the medal was created by four young Norwegian designers, who also came up with the Games logo, and featured the slogan of Lillehammer 2016 – “Go beyond, Create tomorrow.”

“It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had after I was announced as the winner,” Ciprian said. “It was a nice moment because I knew that my design would remain in the history of the Olympic Games and Youth Olympic Games. I feel proud for what I have done.”

The most recent edition of the YOG, in Buenos Aires in 2018, saw 18-year-old Muhamad Farid Husen given the honour of designing the medal, the youngest-ever winner chosen by the IOC. The teenager from Indonesia, who attended the Opening Ceremony in the Argentinian capital, created an eye-catching image entitled “Fireworks of Victory”, which also featured the Olympic rings.

“This medal was inspired by fireworks,” he explained. “Fireworks representing the excitement and the glory of the Youth Olympic Games where all nations come together as one to participate and celebrate. Fireworks fly to the sky, giving the reflection of how the young athletes are reaching their dreams.

“It was really an honour for me to be a little part of the Youth Olympic Games. My dream came true.”

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