The highest Olympic award today is the gold medal. In the Olympic Games of antiquity, it was the laurel crown. That crown is rooted in mythology.
Apollo fell in love with the nymph Daphne and pursued her. She abhorred the thought of marriage and fled. He ran mercilessly after her. As it became clear that he would soon possess her, she prayed to her father, Peneios, to preserve her by changing that form that so enthralled Apollo. Her prayer was answered. She was changed into a laurel tree.
The laurel crown, adorning victors in war and the Olympic Games, was understood to be an ironic reminder that victory is hollow—that most times, on achieving our goal, we find it has changed and is no longer that which we pursued—that, indeed, we ourselves have changed in the pursuit.
-David Mamet (1947-)