Team USA’s Raven Saunders won silver in the shot put competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Sunday, with a distance of 19.79 meters. Lijiao Gong of China won gold, with a distance of 20.58, and Valerie Adams of New Zealand took home bronze, with a distance of 19.62.
On the podium, Saunders—who competed in Rio in 2016 and placed fifth—held her arms up in the shape of an ‘X.’ When reporters in Tokyo asked what that meant, she explained: “It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” AP News reported. Saunders is a proud member of the Black community and the LGBTQ+ community. She’s also very open and honest about the mental health challenges she has faced.
“Being able to walk away with a medal and be able to go out here and really inspire so many people in the LGBTQ community, so many people who have been dealing with mental health issues,” she said, according to NPR. “So many people in the African-American community, so many people who are Black all around the world. I really just hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate.”
Many outlets have questioned whether her gesture violates International Olympic Committee (IOC) rules against athletes protesting or making political statements on the podium. It’s unclear yet if the IOC considers this a violation, and if so, what potential penalties she may face, according to the BBC.
Saunders, who goes by her alter ego the “Hulk” when she’s in competition mode, according to NPR, first made headlines in Tokyo during the qualifying rounds for wearing a face mask with The Joker’s likeness printed on it and sporting a half-green, half-purple hairstyle.
USA Track and Field (USATF) tweeted a photo of her look with the caption, “That’s so Raven.”
NPR reported that during the shot put finals, the 25-year-old was decked out in green, including green and white Air Jordan 13s, her green and purple hair, and her signature Hulk mask (which she sported at the Olympic Trials, too)—all of which, she says, serve in helping her get into her alter ego. This alternative personality is a way for Saunders to differentiate between herself as a person, and herself as an athlete. That’s something that took a lot of work for her to do, she says.
While Saunders clearly isn’t afraid to show up, stand up, and be herself, it wasn’t an easy road to get there.