Raven Saunders X podium protest: what it means and why the IOC is investigating


The 25-year-old raised her hands and crossed them in an X-shape as she and her fellow medalists posed for photos, telling NBC it was “the intersection where all the oppressed meet. “.

Saunders – a black LGBTQ athlete – won her first Olympic medal on Saturday, finishing with a distance of 19.79 meters.

Chinese Gong Lijiao won gold and New Zealander Valerie Adams bronze.

And after winning her medal, she says she wants to be a role model for others like her.

“For me, just to be what I’ve always aspired to be, to be able to be me and not apologize (and) show the younger generation that it doesn’t matter what they tell you, it doesn’t matter how many boxes there are. she’s trying to get you into, you can be you, ”she told media.

“People tell me not to get tattoos and piercings, but now look at me I’m having a blast.”

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has noted it examines the gesture Saunders made on the podium, a potential violation of the rules banning medal podium protests.

“We are in contact with the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and with World Athletics,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said on Monday. “I don’t want to say what those next steps would be until we fully understand what’s going on. We don’t want to anticipate anything.”

“We try to respect the views of all the athletes; we gave them more opportunities to express themselves. Freedom of expression in press conferences, social media, the mixed zone. We created possibilities. before the sport starts to protest.

“But one thing we noticed was that we did a survey of 3,500 athletes (and) everyone who responded wanted to protect the playing field. It would be nice if everyone could stick to the point of view of athletes. “

In response to a tweet about his gesture, Saunders tweeted: “Let them try to take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”

‘Keep fighting, keep pushing, keep finding value in yourself’

With her eye-catching mask and celebration after winning her medal – she twerked then followed it up with another dancing for the cameras – Saunders is one of the biggest characters in the Tokyo Summer Games.

However, she has already faced a difficult personal battle.

Between the Rio 2016 Games and Tokyo, Saunders face difficult personal challenges, suffering from depression and suicidal thoughts. She spoke to CNN earlier this year about a time when “everything went over the top” and how she found support through therapy, meditation, and communication with close friends.

Now she wants to encourage others struggling with their mental health to get the support they need.

“My message is to keep fighting, to keep pushing, to keep finding value in yourself, in everything you do,” she said after winning her silver medal.

“It means a lot to be able to come away with a silver medal because I represent so many people. I know there are so many people who admire me, so many people who have sent me a message, so many people. who prayed for me.

“I’m happy to be able to bring this back for them, not just for me.”

Mental Health

The subject of athlete mental health was a hot topic of discussion at the Tokyo Games after American gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from numerous competitions citing her sanity.

Saunders’ nickname – “Hulk” after the Marvel superhero – is due to the similarities between his mental health journey and the journey of the great green superhero.

Saunders competes in the women's shot put final.

“When I initially became the Hulk, I didn’t know how to tell Hulk from Raven. It was a bit difficult to fight between the two, but over the course of life I was forced to face certain things and learn to compartmentalize, control the Hulk and use the Hulk in the right way.

“I keep it for competitions so Raven can have fun, reaching out to people, going to therapy, doing yoga, meditating – all of those things to create a strong mind. Without a strong mind, you can’t have a strong body. “

George Ramsay contributed to this report.

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