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Olympian and 7-year-old forge gold medal-worthy friendship

CBS News

CBS News

ATLANTA — This week, two good friends — 46-year-old Joe Jacobi and 7-year-old Chloe Smith — got together for a little paddle down the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta. Anyone watching had to wonder — what brought these two together?

“You couldn’t have made this up,” Joe said.

It all began a couple months earlier on dry land. Chloe was out for a stroll with her dad, Wayne. And as usual, she was getting into everything.

“I had been telling her all day, ‘Keep your hands off things,’” Wayne said.

That’s when Chloe saw something shiny and picked it up. Her dad was mad — at first.

“But when I flipped it over I noticed it said Barcelona, 1992,” he said. “And I had just a strong feeling that this was that Olympic gold medal.”

Like everyone else in Atlanta, Wayne had heard the news about the 1992 Olympic kayaker who had his gold metal stolen from his car. That kayaker was Joe Jacobi.

But why did Joe have his gold medal in his car in the first place?

“I’d taken this medal everywhere. I’m very casual with it. You kind of have to be if your goal is to share it,” he said.

Indeed, Joe’s medal had been one of the most shared on the planet. Everyone he met got a chance to hold it. And thanks to the Smiths, they still can.

On Monday, Joe took the medal to Chloe’s school. It’s pretty beat up now, but Joe actually likes it better. He says it now has a better story and a much better moral.

“What brought me here today to talk to your class was an act of character. And this is what Chloe, and her family, did,” Joe said at the school.

All that leads back to the Chattahoochee. Since returning the medal, Chloe and Joe have become fast friends. This is their second trip down the river and they plan on many more.

Joe Jacobi may have lost an Olympic medal, but he has clearly found something golden.