Raven Saunders clinched silver in the shot put on Sunday and went on to step onto the top of the podium at the Tokyo Olympics.
Saunders, who is black and gay, formed an “X” with her wrists as she held her arms above her head – to represent “the intersection of where all oppressed people meet.”
The International Olympic Committee has banned athletes from demonstrating on the podium, although they are allowed to “express their views” at press conferences. There is no indication of what punishment, if any, the American will face as a result of Sunday’s incident.
Saunders suffered from mental health issues and paid tribute to his “communities” after his silver medal. She added that young people were more open to differences than previous generations.
“I really think my generation doesn’t care,” Saunders said. “At the end of the day, we really don’t care. Well done to all my black people. Well done to my entire LGBTQ community. Well done to everyone involved in mental health. Ultimately, we understand that it’s bigger than us and it’s bigger than the powers that be. We understand that there are so many people who admire us, who are looking to see if we are saying something or if we are speaking for them.
Like many other athletes at Tokyo 2020, most notably Simone Biles, the 25-year-old says she has struggled with the pressures of elite sport at times. Saunders added that she was helped by contacting her former therapist.
“It’s good to be strong,” she said. “And it’s good not to be strong 100% of the time. It’s good to need people.
Saunders gained attention in Tokyo for his dyed hair and superhero masks. She said she identified with the Incredible Hulk for her difficult path to controlling her strength and power. Venus and Serena Williams have also been role models growing up as “young black girls with pearls in their hair, no apologies.”
She added that she wanted her gesture and medal to help “people around the world who are fighting and do not have the platform to speak out.”
The shot put was won by Gong Lijiao of China. New Zealander Valerie Adams, 2008 and 2012 champion, won bronze.