Medal from Hawaii Olympian preserved

1948 Olympic gold medal belonged to Thelma Kalama

 UPDATED 8:26 AM HST Aug 03, 2012
Olympic Medal
HONOLULU -

With the price of precious metals near all-time highs, Kama'aina Metals & Jewelry see just about everything walk in their doors, including a medal from a Hawaii Olympian.

But, it took detective work to identify the silver medal as actually belonging to a Hawaii woman who won the gold in the 1948 London games.

Proudly displayed in the Kama'aina Metals museum is a group of swimming medals.

They came in as a group, but who did they belong to?

Enter Jacqui Woods, the company senior buyer turned metal sleuth.  She discovered all the Olympic medals in 1948 were made of silver.

"It was frustrating.  There were a couple of walls we hit with it," said Woods.  "First, none of them are engraved with her name."

"I went online, did a lot more research and I contacted the Hall Of Fame.  We were able to collaborate her other local medals," said Woods.  "I think without these guys we never would have been able to authenticate.  It was, in fact, Thelma Kalama's gold medal."

Thelma Kalama was a member of the Hawaii Swim Club under famed coach Soichi Sakamoto.  She took the Olympic gold in the 100-meter freestyle at the age of 17.

"We actually have learned she was not only an Olympic gold medalist and avid swimmer.  She also loved to surf," said Woods.  "She knew Duke Kahanamoku and the (Waikiki) Beach Boys.  They actually took up a collection for her to send her to the 1948 Olympics."

She later married and became Thelma Kalama-Aiu.  She died in 1999.

Kalama was posthumously inducted into the Hawaii Swimming Hall Of Fame and the Hawaii Sports Hall Of Fame.

Kalama's legacy lives on in the Kama'aina Metals museum.

The owners of Kama'aina Metals put together the museum to preserve pieces of the past after seeing so many special items coming in to potentially be melted away.  In the museum, you'll find everything from a silver geisha belt to Victorian opera glasses to Thelma Kalama's Olympic medal.

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