Chloe Smith, a 6-year-old from Atlanta, Georgia, was taking a walk with her father near their home when she saw something sparkling under a pile of trash this past June. She picked up the shiny object to take home, as she often did on her treasure-hunting walks. This loot was different, though: Chloe was later shocked to discover that she had found a stolen Olympic gold medal.
The medal belonged to former slalom canoeist Joe Jacobi, who won gold while competing for Team USA in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic games. The medal, along with other personal belongs, was stolen in May of 2016 when someone broke into Jacobi’s car. Though police managed to recover some of his stolen items, they hadn’t been able to find his beloved Olympic medal. It may have been pawned or lost forever, if not for a 6-year-old girl’s treasure-hunting habit.
“[Chloe] is always picking up stuff, always finding things,” says Charlmonique Cunningham, Chloe’s mother. “Both her and her dad always want to bring stuff home.”
Chloe’s dad knew that the medal wasn’t “junk,” as her mother initially assumed. He had seen Jacobi’s story on the news, and quickly realized it was his stolen property. Yet Chloe’s mother remained skeptical, so she found Jacobi’s email and sent him pictures of the treasure they had in their possession. When he confirmed the medal’s legitimacy, “he was astonished, just speechless,” Cunningham says.
Though Cunningham recalls Chloe was a little reluctant to give up the medal at first, she was eager to give it back after speaking with Jacobi on the phone. In return, Jacobi gave Chloe a $500 reward, and even promised to come speak to her classroom when school begins again this fall.
“I’ve met the parents, and they’re wonderful. They’re great people,” Jacobi said in an interview with ABC News. “When you talk about character and doing the right thing, that girl has so many of the values of the Olympic Games. I think that Chloe represents and embodies all the Olympic values. In my eyes, she is an Olympian in every sense of the word.”
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