By now, it’s common knowledge that Ralph Lauren designed Team USA’s uniforms for the 2018 Winter Games in PyeongChang. That honor is typically reserved for a well-known designer who has helped to define American fashion. However, the answer to who designed Team USA's Olympic rings is is a much more elusive — and actually pretty surprising — fact. If you’re like me, you might not have even known that team rings were a thing until now, which is insane considering how much prestige Super Bowl rings hold. The Olympics are a worldwide event held every two years (counting the Summer Games), so shouldn’t the rings doled out to its athletes be even more buzzed about? Crazy.
No matter how they end up performing, every U.S. Olympic and Paralympic athlete gets a customized sterling silver ring. So even if they don’t place in the top three, they will still have something to remember their epic efforts by. “"Not everyone will walk away with a medal around their neck when the competition is done, but everyone will have a ring to remember their once in a lifetime experience,” three-time Olympic snowboard halfpipe medalist Kelly Clark tells NBC Olympics. “ I am blessed to have four of these rings.”
The beautiful tradition started in 2002, when the Winter Games were held in Salt Lake City, Utah, and local company O.C. Tanner donated rings to Team USA. Since then, it’s become a tradition of the company’s, with every American athlete receiving the memento since then. I love that a mega jewelry brand isn’t behind the rings and that there is a meaningful story behind their origin.
According to NBC Olympics, “The athletes are sized and fitted for the rings at Team Processing, where they’re showered with free gear and other goodies. From there, they can choose to bling out the rings with diamonds, upgrade to 10-karat or 14-karat gold, platinum gold, or anything they want.” Some athletes opt for their number if they’re part of a team sport, while others opt for more unique and personal phrases. The ring orders are filled by the time the athletes return from the Games, meaning each one of them will have something to look forward to.
This year’s rings feature the Olympic logo underneath the American flag, with the words “United States Olympic Team” surrounding both motifs. One side of the ring reads “Team USA 2018,” while the other is emblazoned with “PyeongChang” and a pictogram of the athlete’s sport. “The PyeongChang 2018 rings are designed to be a memento of the Olympic experience and a reflection of the Team USA brand and host city that athletes and staff associate with during their entire Olympic experience,” Sandra Christensen, the vice president of Award Design and Development at O.C. Tanner, tells NBC Olympics.
Each time the Olympics roll around a new ring design is released based on feedback received from the athletes and the U.S. Olympic Committee, meaning their look is ever-evolving. No Olympic rings from different years will ever look the same, so athletes who make it to multiple Games will have singular mementos for each one. A mold of each athlete’s ring is kept on file by O.C. Tanner should the piece of jewelry get stolen or lost. According to NBC Olympics, Shaun White and Ronda Rousey have both had their rings stolen in the past.
Of course, this means that the rings are unavailable for the public to purchase, but would you really want to? Olympians have earned their spot on Team USA and deserve a special trinket of their own to honor their efforts with.