Raven Saunders: Team USA shooter Raven Saunders raises his weapon in an X in a controversial protest during the Olympic medal ceremony
American racket Raven Saunders not only won the silver on Sunday, but made a very public protest: her arms raised in a stunning “X” shape onto the podium.
Asked then what the gesture meant, the 25-year-old explained that it was meant to represent “the intersection of a place where all oppressed people meet”.
The Olympics prohibit political statements during competition or on the winners’ podium, which leads to a potential clash between the athlete and the sporting authorities. Mrs. Saunders is known for being a colorful character.
During the Olympic Games and Trials, she often wore a multicolored cape and face masks with various comic book characters such as The Hulk and The Joker.
After her win on Sunday, she did a cheerful mini dance.
On a more serious note, she has also been outspoken about her struggles with depression and suicidal thoughts, and the need for LGBTQ+ people like her to embrace the mental health talk.
Not long after Saunders placed an X symbol, another American athlete made a similar gesture on the podium.
When American fencer Race Imboden took the podium at a different location to collect his bronze medal, he had X with a circle around it drawn on his hand, which was not present during the competition. It is unclear what fate awaits these intrepid athletes. The International Olympic Committee, which organizes the Games, does not allow protests during the competition, although the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee recently changed their own policies on the matter, refusing to punish competitors for exercising their rights of expression unless they were hated.
Saunders and Imboden could have been stripped of their medals or banned from competing yet, more so than the competition itself, the main story of these Games was for the athletes to be upfront and personal.
Superstar gymnast Simone Biles shook the sports world when she withdrew from the women’s gymnastics team final on Tuesday, citing Concerns about her mental and physical health. “For anyone who says I quit, I haven’t given up, my body and head are simply out of sync,” she wrote on social media at the time. I don’t think you realize how dangerous this is on the surface of tough competition.
Before the Games began, there was another major story about athletics and mental health: American sprinter Sha Carrie Richardson was banned from competing, after using marijuana during Olympic trials following news that her biological mother has just died.
Many Americans and dignitaries, including President Biden, rallied to her defense, applauding her for speaking out.
Commentators have praised Biles, Richardson and tennis star Naomi Osaka for encouraging women of color to open up about their struggles with mental health, marking a major cultural shift since athletes, especially people of color, were told in previous generations. “Commit to the sport.” American runners Tommy Smith and John Carlos, both black, were famous for being kicked out of the Games in 1968 after they raised Black Power’s fist during the medal ceremony.