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Why are Olympic athletes getting pandas instead of medals?

For at least one Olympic athlete, the fuzzy panda is an upgrade.

Some athletes are reaching the podium at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics ready for gold and getting — a cuddly panda.

If you've wondered why athletes are getting stuffed panda mascot Bing Dwen Dwen instead of medals, don't worry, Olympic medalists all get their medals eventually. And for some athletes, the stuffed panda might be an upgrade.

Beijing Olympics mascot Bing Dwen Dwen has been popular — stuffed versions sold out at many stores in Beijing after the opening ceremony.

A stuffed mascot Bing Dwen Dwen stands in for a medal.
A stuffed mascot Bing Dwen Dwen stands in for a medal.AP

People have been camping overnight to get a version of the chubby stuffed animal, with long lines to get into stores and scalpers charging five times the price. Keychains, snow globes and other panda souvenirs are selling out, too.

It varies by event whether athletes receive medals at the venue or the medal plaza.

Speed skaters have a venue ceremony where they get the stuffed panda, but they receive medals later at a victory ceremony at the medal plaza. Meanwhile Alpine skiers have their victory ceremonies, including the medals, at the venue.

Silver medalists Team USA pose for a group photo following the figure skating team event.David J. Phillip / AP

This isn’t the first Olympics where medalists have received a memento before their medal. They received mascots in PyeongChang, and they received logo figurines in Rio.

At least one medalist was inspired by the toy. China’s Su Yiming won silver in men’s snowboard slopestyle, and after posted a video on Weibo.

“Several days ago when I saw the Chinese Speed Skating Team standing on the podium holding Bing Dwen Dwen, I was really jealous. I realized that through my own efforts, I could also get one," he said. "Today I really was able to get one, I’m extremely happy. I hope through my performances I can win more Bing Dwen Dwen.”