Raven Saunders, a US shot putter, has explained what her gesture after winning silver at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics meant.
As she and her fellow medalists posed for photos, the 25-year-old raised her hands and crossed them in an X, telling NBC that it represented “the intersection of where all oppressed people meet.”
On Saturday, Saunders, a Black LGBTQ athlete, won her first Olympic medal with a distance of 19.79 meters.
Gong Lijiao of China won gold, while Valerie Adams of New Zealand took bronze.
She says she wants to be a role model for others like her after winning her medal.
“For me, just being who I always aspired to be, to be able to be me and not apologize for it (and) show the younger generation that no matter what they tell you, no matter how many boxes they try to fit you in, you can be you,” she told the media.
“People tell me not to do tattoos and piercings, but now look at me, I’m popping.”
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is investigating Saunders’ gesture on the podium, which may have violated rules prohibiting protests on medal podiums.
“We’re in contact with US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and with World Athletics,” said IOC spokesman Mark Adams on Monday. “I don’t want to say what those next steps would be until we fully understand what is going on. We don’t want to pre-empt anything.”
“We try to respect the views of all the athletes; we’ve given them more opportunity to express themselves. Freedom of expression in press conferences, social media, mixed zone. We’ve created possibilities before the sport begins to make protests.
“But one thing we have noted is we did a survey with 3,500 athletes (and) all those who answered wanted to protect the field of play. It would be good if everyone could respect the views of athletes.”
In reply to a tweet about her gesture, Saunders tweeted: “Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”
Saunders is one of the most memorable characters at the Tokyo Summer Games, thanks to her eye-catching mask and celebration after winning her medal — she twerked and then followed it up with another dance for the cameras.
She has, however, faced a difficult personal battle in the past.
Between the 2016 Rio Olympics and the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Saunders struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts.