In a demonstration of support to marginalized individuals, Olympic silver medalist Raven Saunders raised her arms in an “X” above her head during the medal ceremony on Sunday.
Saunders, who won the silver in shot put, made the gesture during the photo-op following the playing of the winner’s national anthem. When asked what it meant, she said, “It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” the AP reports.
Saunders, who is among the out athletes competing at this year’s Olympics, has been open about her own struggles with mental health, and about the obstacles she’s faced as a Black, queer athlete. Despite her success as a shot-putter at the national and international level — where she placed 5th in the Rio Games — she told GO last year that she had considered suicide when the pressure of school and training became too much.
In remarks following her medal win, Saunders said that her victory “doesn’t just represent me. It represents everybody that’s struggling out here in the world, not just America but in the world. … I feel amazing ’cause I know I’m about to inspire so many people, I’m about to inspire so many young girls, so many young boys, so many LGBTQ people, so many people that have battled suicide, so many people that have almost given up.”
Everyone (and we do mean EVERYONE) needs to hear this👇
— On Her Turf (@OnHerTurf) August 1, 2021
Saunders won the silver with a throw of 19.79 meters, putting her just behind China’s Gong Lijiao and ahead of New Zealand’s Valerie Adams who took Bronze.
— USATF (@usatf) August 1, 2021
The Olympic International Committee (IOC) is now looking into the gesture, which may have been in violation of its official policy. While the IOC has relaxed its policies regarding athletes expressing political views during press conferences, such demonstrations are still forbidden in medal ceremonies. The BBC reports that it remains unclear what actions the IOC could take against Saunders for the display, since it does not outline penalties for such demonstrations.
In response, Saunders posted on Twitter, “Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”
Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim 😂 https://t.co/B59N2v9KAk
— Raven HULK Saunders (@GiveMe1Shot) August 1, 2021