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Why are Olympians getting stuffed tigers instead of medals when they win?

Here's why you see winning athletes clutching stuffed white tigers of the Olympic mascot after each event in Pyeongchang.
by Scott Stump / / Source: TODAY
PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics: figure skating team event, flower ceremony
And you get a tiger! And you get a tiger! And you get a tiger! Canada celebrates its figure skating team gold with plush toys of Pyeongchang mascot Soohorang.Getty Images

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Have you noticed Olympic athletes clutching stuffed white tigers after their wins in Pyeongchang? We can explain.

No, it's not a Snapchat filter come to life. It's four long years of hard work ... all summed up by a plush toy.

Before they get their medals, the top three finishers in each event are first given small stuffed tigers of the Olympic mascot named Soohorang. The tigers wear a gold, silver or bronze hat, and a paper flower known as an uhsahwa.

The stuffed animals replace the floral bouquets that have traditionally been given to medal winners in the aftermath of each event.

The white tiger is considered Korea's guardian animal, and "Sooho" means protection in Korean, while "rang" means tiger, according to the official Olympic site. Fun fact, right? (Speaking of fun facts, have you also been wondering why some of the athletes have tape on their faces? Here's why.)

The winners receive their actual medals at a second ceremony each night in the Medals Plaza in Pyeongchang.

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That differs from the Summer Olympics, where winners receive their medals right after their events have ended. (A nightly ceremony during the summer games would take too long because there are more events and athletes competing than in the Winter Olympics.)

Led by snowboarding sensations Chloe Kim and Red Gerard, Team USA is quickly amassing a stockpile of stuffed Soohorangs.

Raise those tigers proudly, Team USA!

Follow TODAY.com writer Scott Stump on Twitter.

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