PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — The joy on Jamie Anderson’s face as she celebrated her victory in women’s slopestyle snowboarding is a timeless Olympic moment. The cute little stuffed tiger in her right hand is a new twist.
After winning gold, silver or bronze, medalists at the Pyeongchang Games aren’t immediately presented with their hardware. Instead, they get Soohorang, a striped white tiger that is the mascot of this year’s Winter Olympics and quickly became a ubiquitous sight during many of the games’ joyful moments.
“I’m down with the tiger,” Anderson said laughing. “I feel like my spirit animal must be some kind of lion or tiger or maybe black panther. It’s going to be my new snuggle partner in crime.”
The white tiger is considered South Korea’s guardian animal. “Sooho” means “protection” in Korean while “rang” is part of the word for “tiger” and the last Korean letter in “Jeongseon Arirang,” which is a popular Korean folk song.
Anderson — and just about everyone else — is a fan.
“I like it, keep it original and mix it up,” Anderson said.
Hours later — and in some cases an entire day later — come the actual medals.
In most cases, athletes are transported from the venue to the Pyeongchang Olympic Plaza to receive their medals in an evening ceremony. But some medalists — like in men’s ski jumping or men’s luge — didn’t receive theirs until the following day because some competitions last late into the night.
Chris Mazdzer, who became the first American to win a medal in the men’s luge on Sunday, didn’t get his silver medal until Monday night.
“I had to wait almost 24 hours for this thing,” said Mazdzer, who was proudly showing off his silver Monday night. “I think now it’s finally set in. All the emotions are flowing and, yeah, it’s pretty awesome. It’s incredible.”
The elation of receiving his medal is no slight to the tiger: Mazdzer said Soohorang will have a spot right next to his medal in the trophy case.
“That thing is just as important for sure,” Mazdzer said.
Also at the ceremony, Olympic medalists also receive a wooden gift depicting the mountain setting of the games, with “Pyeongchang 2018” spelled out in the Korean alphabet.
More AP Olympic coverage: https://wintergames.ap.org