The amazing reason that medals at the Paralympics make a sound when you shake them.

At the Olympic Games, you can see what victory looks like.

Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images

At the Paralympic Games, you can hear it too.

Amanda McGrory, Tatyana McFadden, and Chelsea McClammer of the United States after competing in the women's club throw. Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images.


For the first time, winning Paralympic athletes are receiving medals filled with tiny steel balls, which allow champions with visual impairment to experience their wins aurally — by shaking them.

U.S. swimmer Bradley Snyder listens to his gold medal. Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images.

The number of balls increases by place — 16 for bronze, 20 for silver, and 28 for gold — so that the medals each make a different sound.

"Our hope, and I think it's the Olympic Committee's hope too, is that this becomes the style," Victor Hugo Berbert, the manager overseeing the medal's sound feature, told the International Business Times. "That the next games bring other sensory elements for the athletes and that this might carry on."

Though Paralympic medals have featured braille before, the shakeable medal is an attempt to make the games even more accessible to all athletes with disabilities.

The pre-cursor to the modern Paralympics — then called the Stoke-Mandeville Games — first took place in London in 1948. The athletes, mostly disabled World War II veterans, had to be in wheelchairs to compete.

By the time the Paralympic Games were officially founded in 1960, visually impaired competitors, amputees, paraplegics, and persons with cerebral palsy still couldn't participate. Paraplegic athletes were first included in 1968 and after 16 years of organizing and lobbying — led by the International Sport Organization for the Disabled and its 16 affiliated countries — the games finally granted inclusion to blind and amputee athletes in 1976, and athletes with cerebral palsy in 1980.

Since 1992, the games have been hosted in the same city as the Olympics to foster a sense of equality between the two events.

A representative for the games told PRI that athletes have been referring to the rattling of the medal as the "sound of victory."

Lynda Hamri of Algeria shakes her bronze medal. Photo by Lucas Uebel/Getty Images.

For winners with vision loss and their competitors, it's a hugely welcome development.

But don't worry, champions: They still taste like victory too.

Eva Berna of Czech Republic, after winning bronze in the women's shot put.

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