Athlete-activist Gwen Berry is determined to have the final say on critics who demanded she be banned from the Olympics because of her demonstration on the podium at the track and field trials in the United States.
The American hammer thrower hit the national spotlight in June after turning away from the American flag during a performance of the national anthem at Hayward Field.
Berry, who qualified for the Olympic hammer final on Sunday with a 73.19m throw, faced calls from Republican lawmakers for her to be kicked from the U.S. squad, right-wing pundits reminding question his patriotism.
However, the 32-year-old ignored her criticisms on Sunday as she competed in a uniform emblazoned with “USA” and an American flag.
“All those people who hate me aren’t here so they can’t affect me,” Berry said, adding that she had learned to “compartmentalize” the abuse.
“I feel like I have earned the right to wear this uniform because of all my hard work and sacrifice,” she added.
“It’s not just about the uniform, it’s about the people who helped me get here, and my struggle, my resilience. “
Berry helped shape a debate about the nature of athlete protests in 2019 when she raised her fist on the podium after winning a gold medal at the Pan Am Games in Lima to protest racial injustice.
This gesture earned him a reprimand from the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee with a warning that future acts would face stiffer penalties.
However, following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, the USOPC apologized for sanctioning Berry and then changed its rules to allow athletes to demonstrate on the podium.
Berry wouldn’t be drawn to what she envisioned if she stepped onto the medal podium in Tokyo.
“My first goal is to win,” she said. “My second goal is to do my best. And my third goal is simply to represent the oppressed people.
“This is my message for the past three years – just making sure I bring my message to situations that are unfolding around the world, and especially in America. “
Berry’s preparations for Tokyo were hit by tragedy, with the death of an uncle earlier this year followed by the death of his agent, Andy Stubbs, shortly before trials in June.
“It’s been pretty tough, but I just have to be thankful that I’m alive, and I’m here and I made it,” she said. “It was a difficult time. But I’m here. “
© 2021 AFP