Raven Saunders competes in the women’s shot put final at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on August 1, 2021 in Tokyo, Japan.

Saunders threw 19.79 (64ft, 11in), just off his personal best 19.96 (65-5 ¾) from the US Olympic Team Trials – Track and Field in June, to place second behind Lijiao Gong of China, who threw a personal best 20.58 meters (67-6). Gong eventually reached Olympic peak after winning bronze in 2008, silver in 2012, and fourth place in 2016.

Valerie Adams of New Zealand won bronze (19.62 meters) for her fourth Olympic medal. She won gold in 2008 and 2012 and silver in 2016 and has since given birth to two children.

“Everything I’ve been through in terms of mental health, injuries, finances,” Saunders said, paid off at the Olympic stadium on Sunday morning as she was able to relay her philosophy of “Keep on fighting. , keep pushing, find value in yourself. “

As another famous character sang, “It’s not easy to be green.”

Five years ago in Rio, Saunders was fifth while her teammate Michelle Carter won America’s first gold in that event.

“I remember looking at her then,” Saunders said, “and saying,“ I’m going to make sure that person is me. “”

She was only 21 at the time and was caught in what she called a “whirlwind” when she returned to school at the University of Mississippi. Saunders was plagued by depression and anxiety and was considering suicide in 2018. A call to a former therapist brought her back from the brink and she found help.

Through therapy and the support of a strong network of friends and family, Saunders learned to subdue the Hulk within herself. She differentiated the fun-loving Raven from the Hulk who “jerked off whatever needed to be broken.”

Still, Saunders’ Olympic dreams were almost pulverized by a torn right labrum earlier this season.

She enlisted the support of hammer thrower Gwen Berry as she went through an episode of depression after discovering the tear in her hip less than a month before the Olympic trials.

“It was nice to have someone like her that I could reach out to,” Saunders said. “My right labrum is more ripped than my left labrum in 2019, then I twisted my Achilles in the foreplay, but hey whatever. We got a medal.

What could she have done if her hip was healthy? “I’m still 25, so I have a long career,” Saunders said. “The year I’m healthy, hey, watch out! Warning!”

In practice, Saunders finished second behind Jessica Ramsey, who threw a personal best 20.12 meters. Sadly, Ramsey suffered an injury at the Olympics and did not register any scores in the women’s 12 final after three fouls.

Between throws, Saunders strolled around, giving herself positive reinforcement. She positioned herself in front of the metal ball, which she placed on the ground near the ring, waved her finger, and even took a few steps on the grass before throwing the towel off her head and standing. prepare to launch.

“I love being my biggest supporter,” Saunders said of his personal pep talk. “You should all be beeping on most of the things I say. I’m like ‘You got it, you got it, you’re a champion, you got to push, nobody’s going to give it to you, you got to work, you got to grind, you got to have it. ‘”

And she did. As Saunders approached the media in the Mixed Zone, she sang “Celebration” by Kool & The Gang.

Saunders said she invested everything she had mentally and physically. It was important not only to ‘be able to come away with a medal,’ she said, but also to ‘be able to come out here and really inspire so many people in the LGBTQ community, so many people with mental health issues. . health issues, so many people in the African American community, so many black people all over the world. I really hope I can continue to inspire and motivate.

The 25-year-old from Charleston, SC, was the competition’s first pitcher and put in a solid 19.65 effort. Gong responded with 19.95.

Saunders fouled on a stupendous second attempt that looked like a 20-yard throw. She straddled the top of the ring with one foot, and later scowled as she spoke about it.

“I just haven’t finished working my hips,” Saunders said. “I was excited and looked at him because I knew as soon as he left my hand, ‘Aww, this is gonna be that one.’ I was hoping to get another one.

But she said she was happy to see Gong, whom she had beaten in a previous competition, throw as far as she did.

“I like to say, ‘I don’t want anything easy. Saunders said. “Because I know that in life it will be air combat.

“I was kinda expecting and preparing for it, and I was happy when she brought it.”

Saunders threw 19.62 on his next attempt, then 19.49 and improved to 19.79 on his fifth throw.

The formidable Adams, who was named Lady for her accomplishments, was behind her in the standings, and once Saunders saw her literally over her shoulder. Adams is almost 6ft 4in, while Saunders isn’t quite 5-5.

“I was like, ‘Dude, I’m a dwarf, I really am a dwarf over there,’” Saunders said.

But she can throw far. “Hey,” Saunders said, “that’s condensed power.”

Her last throw was a foul, but she knew she was on the podium. Saunders danced, ran to the stands for an American flag, and did model poses.
Unlike the other competitors, Saunders’ legs were mostly bare. “I blame the buns on Twitter,” she said, “because I was joking and said,“ I’m going to wear the sprinter panties, add some sparkle, ”then 800 and something that people liked, so I was like, ‘Dang, now I have to wear it.’ “

But it’s so Raven. She attributes her different looks to “my lack of excuse”.

“My hair, I wear bars, my biggest thing is always being me,” Saunders said. “People have told me not to get tattoos and piercings, but now look at me, I’m popular.”

She said it would have meant so much to have seen someone who looked like her when she was growing up. Even now, she is inspired and motivated by current athletes.

“I’m talking about the importance of representation,” Saunders said. “Being able to see that would give me more impetus. I remember looking back and remembering watching Venus and Serena (Williams) play tennis – young black girls, pearls in their hair, without apologizing. It inspired me to be myself.


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