The glistening gold medals Olympic athletes win on the ninth day of the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, will be embedded with something out of this world — a fragment of the meteorite that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia, exactly one year prior.
“We will hand out our [meteorite] medals to all the athletes who will win gold on that day, because both the meteorite strike and the Olympic Games are global events,” Chelyabinski Region Culture Minister Alexei Betekhtin said in a statement.
Seven events will be awarding gold medals on the anniversary of the meteorite strike, Feb. 15, 2014: the men’s 1,500-meter speed skating, the women’s 1,000-meter and men’s 1,500-meter short track, the women’s cross-country skiing relay, the men’s K-125 ski jump, the women’s super giant slalom and the men’s skeleton event.
Betekhtin said the special medals — which have yet to be designed — will be awarded in addition to the regular Olympic medals.
This past February, news agencies reported that the spectacular meteorite that sent shock waves through the city of Chelyabinsk was a blessing in disguise for some of its impoverished residents. When the meteorite exploded, it showered the city with thousands of tiny black stones that were worth more than their weight in gold.
The New York Times recounted how strangers were offering stacks of rubles worth hundreds, even thousands, of dollars to local residents for the meteorite fragments.
NASA noted at the time that the 55-foot, 7,000-ton meteorite was the largest known celestial body to enter the Earth’s atmosphere in 100 years.
The meteorite injured about 1,500 people and smashed windows in Chelyabinsk and neighboring areas. Fortunately, no deaths were reported.