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American shot putter Raven Saunders will compete in the final of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on Sunday. Matthias Schrader/AP hide caption
American shot putter Raven Saunders will compete in the final of the Summer Olympics in Tokyo on Sunday.
When American shot putter Raven Saunders takes part, she calls herself the ‘Hulk’. It’s the alter ego storming onto the field to fight for the championships.
Saunders – with the help of her ‘Hulk’ character – took silver in the women’s shot put final at the Tokyo Summer Olympics. She hurled the heavy ball 19.79 meters, or almost 65 feet. It is the third ever medal for the US in the women’s event and it’s Saunders’ first.
“I remember my first Olympics, when I saw Michelle Carter come out here and, you know, pull it off,” she said, referring to the American female shot put gold medalist at the 2016 Games. made sure that when I came out of 2016, constantly fighting and constantly pushing through everything, I made sure to walk away with a medal.”
China’s Gong Lijiao took gold and Valerie Adams, from New Zealand, took bronze.
It was a long journey to Tokyo for Saunders, after years of openly struggling with depression after the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro and then leaving the world stage to return to normal life. She was hospitalized, sustained injuries and then was given a second chance to compete on the world stage.
Saunders said she has been so open about her mental health issues so that others don’t feel alone. It’s also why she wears her identity so proudly as a gay black woman.
“To be able to walk away with a medal and go out here and really inspire so many people in the LGBTQ community, so many people who have dealt with mental health issues,” she said. “So many people in the African American community, so many people who are black around the world. I really hope I can continue to inspire and motivate.”
Saunders is one of at least According to Outsports, 179 LGBTQ athletes are taking part in the Games. They are by far the most athletes who have ever participated in an Olympic Games.
In Tokyo, Saunders has taken the social media world by storm with her colorful appearance and larger-than-life personality. After she won her medal, she caused a furore with the American flag on the field and walked away singing: “Celebrate good times, come on!”
Raven Saunders celebrates after finishing second in the women’s shot put final. David J. Phillip/AP hide caption
Raven Saunders celebrates after finishing second in the women’s shot put final.
During the match, she was decked out in shades of green: green and white Air Jordan 13s, green and purple hair, and her signature Hulk mask that puts her in smash mode. Her comic book alter ego is fun, but it’s also a way of separating Raven the competitor and Raven the person.
“I found it difficult to distinguish between the two,” she said after her match. “But on my journey, especially dealing with mental health and stuff like that, I learned how to compartmentalize in the same way that Bruce Banner learned how to control the Hulk… a sign of mental peace when he wasn’t the Hulk .” In the comic books, scientist Bruce Banner must find ways to use his super-strong, out-of-control alter ego.
The Charleston, SC native loves the attention she has received for her looks and for her sport. But eventually, she says, the focus will fade.
“I learned my worth outside of the sport,” she said. “I know the medal is cool. It’s a bonus. It’s a plus. But what I’m really most excited about is constantly, you know, inspiring and pushing people and really still being an advocate for my community. “
“I’m part of a lot of communities, damn it.”
She smiles. She wants to represent them all.
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