The old adage "One man's trash is another man's treasure" proved literally true recently for an Olympic champion. Last Friday Wayne Smith and his 6-year-old daughter Chloe found part of an Olympic gold medal in the garbage in Atlanta.
Intermingled with old sneakers and wood scraps, Chloe spotted the medal from the 1992 games in Barcelona. "When she picked it up it just wowed me. I had to look at it for 20 minutes before it sunk in," Smith said to WTVM-TV, an ABC affiliate in Columbus, Georgia.
The piece of Olympic history belongs to Joe Jacobi. He won the medal as a slalom canoeist in the 1992 games but had it stolen about two weeks ago. Jacobi was eating at a local restaurant while traveling when his car was broken into, and a number of items were taken, among them his irreplaceable gold medal.
Some of the items were later recovered at an apartment complex, but the medal was still missing until Chloe's lucky find. Being 6, she didn't have much of an understanding of what it was. In fact, she apparently tossed it like a Frisbee. But her father investigated the newfound toy and immediately contacted Jacobi. The medal winner is still missing the back of the medal and the ribbon, but the most important part has been returned to its owner.
"The part of the medal the family found identifies the 1992 Olympic games. It has Nike, the Greek goddess of victory on it. It's the most distinguishing part of the medal," Jacobi said to WTVM.
There's been a lot of support for Jacobi. "The last two weeks have encompassed an incredible amount of goodness and kindness in community, and what we experienced was just another extension of what we've experienced over the past two weeks,” according to Atlanta AM radio station WSB.
As for the Smith family, they got a couple of good things out of the situation. First, Jacobi rushed down to Atlanta from his Tennessee home to thank the family and deliver a $500 reward. And the gold medal winner also promised that when school was back in session, he'd visit Chloe's school to show off the piece of the medal the 6-year-old found.
Jacobi has always carried the priceless item with him, and he plans to keep doing so now that he has it back in his possession.
"We get to take the medal and move forward and do what we've always done with it — share it with people," he said to WSB. "And it has a new story to add to the old one."