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How are bronze medals decided at the Olympics?

Different sports have different methods of deciding the Olympic bronze medallist. Some have playoffs while in some, both losing semi-finalists are awarded bronze.
By Rahul Venkat

Winning an Olympic medal and standing on the podium is one of the most significant achievements in an athlete’s career.

It has kickstarted careers for some while for many, it is the culmination of years of hard work and dedication.

The Olympic gold and silver medals are pretty straightforward to decide - athletes who contest the final of an event to finish one and two, win those medals.

However, the method of handing out bronze medals varies in a few sports.

Most Olympic sports have races and finals to decide the Olympic podium - with the third-best athlete receiving bronze.

This method is followed in athletics, swimming, cycling, gymnastics, artistic swimming, canoe slalom, canoe sprint, diving, equestrian, rowing, shooting, skateboarding, sport climbing, triathlon and weightlifting.

Sports played on courts and fields use playoffs to decide the bronze medal - the losing semi-finalists play against each other to decide the third-placed player/team. For example, hockey and football.

This bronze playoff is used in 3x3 basketball, archery, badminton, softball/baseball, basketball, fencing, football, handball, hockey, rugby sevens, surfing, table tennis, tennis, volleyball and water polo.

Two bronze medals: Wrestling, boxing and more

Martial arts - judo, taekwondo, karate - and combat sports - boxing and wrestling - at the Olympics hand out two bronze medals.

In boxing, both losing semi-finalists are given a bronze medal each. Until the 1948 London Olympics, boxers used to take to the ring for a bronze medal playoff.

However, the system of giving both losing semi-finalists a bronze was introduced during the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. The AIBA reasoned that there was too little time for recovery for the losing semi-finalists between their semi-final and a bronze medal playoff.

Repechage rounds

Judo, taekwondo and wrestling use the repechage system to give bronze medals.

In taekwondo and wrestling repechage, a separate draw is made, which includes the losing semi-finalists along with the two athletes who lost to the eventual finalists in the Round of 16 and the quarter-finals.

The losing Round of 16 and losing quarter-final athletes in the same half of the draw compete against each other, and the winner of each then plays the losing semi-finalist in their half of the draw for two bronze medals.

In judo repechage, a separate draw is made for the losing semi-finalists and the losing quarter-finalists.

The losing quarter-finalists in the same half of the draw compete against each other and the winner of each plays the losing semi-finalists in the same half of the draw for two bronze medals.

There are two forms of karate at Tokyo 2020 - kumite and kata, with medallists decided in each.

Kumite uses a direct elimination system and both losing semi-finalists are given a bronze medal.

In kata, after an initial elimination round, six athletes proceed to a ranking round and will be divided into two groups. The group winners proceed to the gold medal bout while the four remaining athletes fight each other for two bronze medals.

The exceptions

In the golf competition, all 60 players each in the men’s and women’s events play four rounds of golf, with the top-three winning the Olympic medals. In case of a tie, a playoff system is used to determine medallists.

The system in sailing is a little different. The sailing rules state that the athletes take part in 10 or 12 (depending on the type of boat) qualifying races, with the top-10 progressing to the medal race.

The qualifying scores of the top-10 are carried over to the medal race and the points earned in the medal race are doubled to determine the final standings. The top three win the Olympic medals.