The Olympic Medalists' Toy Tigers Have Such a Sweet Meaning

The stuffed animals are just too cute.

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Instead of receiving their medals right away, this year's Olympic winners get another special gift when they earn a spot on the podium in PyeongChang. Each gold, silver, and bronze comes with a stuffed version of , the games' official (and adorable) mascot.

Olympic tray bearers hold the stuffed animals for the celebration following the men's snowboard slopestyle event in Phoenix Snow Park.
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The commemorative is inspired after uhsahwa, a traditional gift given to those who pass Korean state exams. Olympians receive the white tiger, and Paralympians will get their mascot , an Asiatic black bear. Each animal symbolizes special qualities, too. In Korean folk tales, tigers embody trust, strength, and protection, while the bear represents strong will and courage.

In an effort to promote sustainability, the Rio Summer Olympics also ditched bouquets in favor of lasting souvenirs. Korean organizers copied the move, but opted for a symbolic doll instead of the puzzling statues handed out in Brazil.

Paralympic mascot Bandabi (left) poses alongside Olympic mascot Soohorang.

According to the , Soohorang's outfit reflects "the gold of the king, the red of the three ministries, and the blue of government officers of the dynasty." His hat also indicates the color of the medal awarded.

can someone please explain why the winners are only getting stuffed tigers instead of medals? I know the winter olympics are second rate but come on now...

— Rachel (@reglorious)

Despite my best Googling, still can’t figure out why medalists are being ceremoniously awarded stuffed white tigers. Anyone?

— Constance Quinlan (@Connie_Quinlan)

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To , volunteers pass out the stuffed animals first at the event venues immediately following the competition. The winners' medals and additional commemoratives — wooden depictions of the mountains of PyeongChang — come at the official Olympic Victory Ceremonies in PyeongChang Olympic Plaza later on.

Silver medalist Laurie Blouin of Canada, gold medalist Jamie Anderson of the United States, and bronze medalist Enni Rukajarvi of Finland pose during the victory ceremony for the women's snowboard slopestyle event.

This year's hardware was inspired by the texture of tree trunks. South Korean designer Lee Suk-woo also incorporated elements of the Korean alphabet, and chose the traditional fabric gapsa for the embroidered ribbon.

The PyeongChang 2018 Olympic medals are displayed during their unveiling at a ceremony in Seoul on September 21, 2017.

Just don't expect the "gold" to contain much gold: Only 6 grams plate the silver medal. Oh, and the bronze? It's actually just copper.

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