Silver medal-winning shot putter Raven Saunders raised her arms in an “X” formation over her head in symbolic protest while posing for photographers with her co-medalists on Sunday — in violation of the Olympic ban on medal ceremony protests.
Saunders, 25, of Charleston, South Carolina, told the Associated Press the gesture was a nod to “the intersection where all people who are oppressed meet.”
The self-proclaimed “Hulk” of track-and-field is black and openly gay and has been vocal about her struggles with depression. She said she hoped to honor “people all around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak up for themselves,” the BBC said.
Saunders, a three-time college champion during her time at Ole Miss, made her protest after stepping off the podium during the medal ceremony — in violation of the the International Olympic Committee’s “Rule 50” prohibition on medal ceremony protests.
It is not yet clear what penalties she could face for bring politics to the podium.
“I really think that my generation really don’t care,” Saunders said. “We understand that there’s so many people that are looking up to us, that are looking to see if we say something or if we speak up for them.”
Her defiant gesture came after she threw the shot 19.79 meters in the shot put final, right behind 32-year-old veteran Chinese Olympian Gong Lijiao, who threw for 20.58 meters.
Saunders, whose hair is dyed purple and green, made heads turn in the qualifying round on Friday when she wore a “Joker” face mask during competition.
At Sunday’s final, she competed in “Hulk” mask in reference to her nickname.
Saunders told the AP after her silver medal showing that her mission is “to be me. To not apologize.”
“To show younger people that no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you and you can accept it” she said.
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“People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that. But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”
With Post wires