The meme in question is a multi-panel comic by Russian artist 3palec. The first five panels show a man in a tracksuit receiving a medal, biting it (as Olympians often do), kissing the blonde woman who put it around his neck, yelling and giving the middle finger, and popping a bottle of champagne, heavily implying that he’s won the competition.
In the sixth panel comes the payoff: our somewhat unkempt hero is standing at the third-place position on the podium while the silver and gold medalists look at him blasting himself in the face with champagne. The comic works because the celebrations look like that of the first-place winner until it’s revealed that they’re actually coming from the guy who placed third.
In real life, of course, just getting to the Olympics is a tremendous accomplishment, which makes any kind of medal the kind of thing that’s worth celebrating with abandon.
Twitter user @krystalwolfy was the first to put together how the real-life reaction of Brazilian swimmer Bruno Fratus matched 3palec’s meme-able masterpiece.
It happened pic.twitter.com/YELI6YlbIH
— 🏳️⚧️🇳🇱Big Mommy Liza🇳🇱🏳️⚧️ (@krystalwolfy) August 1, 2021
Fratus was participating in his third Olympics, but this was his first medal, and his excitement is even more understandable when you realize he’s probably closer to the end of his swimming career than the beginning. So his celebration isn’t funny on its own; it’s funny because it rhymes so well with a piece of internet culture that anyone who spends any significant amount of time on social media will likely recognize.
Could it all be a bit too perfect? Is it possible that Fratus was aware of the comic, which was originally posted to Facebook on February 7, 2020, and sought to recreate it during his time on the podium? Maybe! But that wouldn’t make it any less fun, and fun is what internet memes and Olympic celebrations are all about.