Over the weekend, Charleston, South Carolina native Raven Saunders earned second place in the women’s shot put tournament at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. The silver medal serves as the first Olympic award that the shot putter has received.
In addition to her sheer power in the shot put category — her win being a finishing distance of 19.79 meters — the 25-year-old also stood out from her competition thanks to her creative style (wearing some eye-catching face masks) and her fun personality.
Cameras shot a glimpse of the athlete beginning to twerk in celebration of her Olympic win before the Olympic broadcast was quick to air something else instead. On Twitter, one user shared a clip of the change in coverage with a tweet that quipped,
“How dare NBC cut away from Raven Saunders, shot put star, as she twerks to celebrate winning a silver medal!!!”
Notably, the switch wasn’t quite NBC’s fault. Coverage from the Olympics is actually sent out to various networks like NBC on an international scale through the Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS).
On the OBS website, the organization noted that it aims to provide “unbiased” coverage of the Olympics and “share the inspiring athletic achievements and spectacular Ceremonies of the Games with viewers in more than 200 countries around the world.”
“Our coverage is neutral, favoring no particular country or athlete, and includes sports competitions as well as the Opening and Closing Ceremonies,” the site additionally said.
Though her twerking was seemingly censored, Saunders additionally made it a point to protest on the podium as she stood at the medal award ceremony for her category on Sunday evening.
Lifting her arms above her head as she crossed her wrists to form an “X,” the 25-year-old shot put champion told ESPN’s Sports Center that the gesture symbolized “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
According to the outlet, “Saunders, who is openly gay, has contemplated suicide, [and] seen poverty and depression ravage her Black community and others like it.”
The athlete “often wondered if the Olympics, which make a grand point of celebrating diversity but often struggles to live up to that mission, have a spot for a person like her,” Sports Center wrote following the athlete’s win.
“Shout out to all my Black people, shout out to all my LBGTQ community, shout out to everybody dealing with mental health,” the silver medalist shared. “Because at the end of the day, we understand that it’s bigger than us, and it’s bigger than the powers that be.”
In terms of her overall mission as an athlete with a mainstream platform, Saunders said that she wants to encourage young people to know that they can be accepted for who they are.
“People tried to tell me not to do tattoos and piercings and all that,” Saunders told ESPN candidly. “But look at me now, and I’m poppin’.”
Athletes’ rights to protesting has been restricted at this year’s Olympics thanks to the Rule 50 ban. According to CNN, Saunders’ podium protest is currently being investigated by the International Olympics Committee (IOC) over “a potential breach of rules.” A representative for the organization shared that both the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee and World Athletics have been contacted with regards to the shot putter’s gesture on Sunday evening.
In response, Saunders tweeted, “Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim [laughing emoji].”
Get a better feel for Saunders’ funny and confident personality through the photos and clips below.