An Olympic gold medalist will have her medal replaced less than a week after the end of the Tokyo Games. For a very unusual reason.
Tokyo 2020 organizers announced Thursday that Miu Goto, a relief pitcher on Japan's champion softball team, will receive a new gold medal after Takashi Kawamura, the mayor of her hometown in Nagoya, bit her medal at an event to celebrate her win, according to Reuters.
The bite did not appear to damage the medal, but still caused a minor scandal in Japan for Kawamura's flouting of COVID-19 protocols and perceived disrespect for Goto's prize. Biting Olympics is a common practice, dating back to its use as a quick test of a gold coin's authenticity, but it's a practice you typically see only among the athletes that won them.
The social media backlash against Kawamura was swift, with the term "germ medal" trending soon after the event. That backlash included other Japanese athletes, via the BBC:
"Apart from showing a lack of respect for athletes, he bit it even though [athletes] are putting on medals themselves or on their team-mates during medal ceremonies as part of infection prevention measures. Sorry, I can't understand it," Japanese silver medallist fencer Yuki Ota wrote on Twitter.
Even Japanese car giant Toyota, which sponsors the Goto's Toyota Red Terriers club team, released a statement condemning Kawamura, per Reuters:
"It is unfortunate that he was unable to feel admiration and respect for the athlete," Toyota said in a statement on Thursday about Kawamura. "And it is extremely regrettable that he was unable to give consideration to infection prevention," said the world's biggest car maker.
Between that and a reported 7,000 complaints to city authorities, Kawamura apologized a day later and even offered to pay for a replacement medal:
"I forgot my position as Nagoya mayor and acted in an extremely inappropriate way," Mayor Takashi Kawamura said in a statement. “I am fully aware that I should reflect on that.”
Fortunately for the mayor, the IOC will reportedly bear the cost of replacing Goto's medal.
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