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‘Let them try and take this medal’: US shot-putter Saunders defiant as IOC investigates ‘X’ gesture Olympic podium protest

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The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has confirmed it is looking into the podium protest by US shot-put silver medalist Raven Saunders, who made an ‘X’ gesture during Sunday’s ceremony in Tokyo.

Saunders, 25, became the first athlete at the Tokyo Games to stage a podium protest when she raised her arms above her head to form an ‘X’.

The star said the gesture marks “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet” – but could find herself in trouble for breaching the rules.

Saunders won silver for the US in the shot put. © Reuters



Saunders was the first athlete to protest on the podium in Tokyo. © USA Today Sports



Speaking at a Monday press conference, IOC spokesman Mark Adams confirmed the organization is contact with World Athletics and the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee regarding the gesture from Saunders.

Ahead of the Tokyo Games, Olympic officials had relaxed Rule 50 of the Olympic Charter to allow protests such as taking a knee by athletes before competitions, but any gestures made during podium ceremonies remain banned.

The shot-putter herself, who picked up a first medal in her second appearance at an Olympic Games, was defiant in a message posted on Twitter.

“Let them try and take this medal. I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim,” she wrote, adding a laughing emoji and a link to an article where she explains the meaning of the protest. 

Saunders, who had finished behind China’s Gong Lijiao but ahead of New Zealander Valerie Adams, had twerked after her final throw on Sunday and doubled down on her stance. 

“I’m part of a lot of communities,” said Saunders, who is black and gay, and has spoken about her struggles with mental health problems. 

“At the end of the day, we really don’t care. Shout out to all my black people. Shout out to all my LGBTQ community.

“Shout out to all my people dealing with mental health.

“At the end of the day, we understand it’s bigger than us and it’s bigger than the powers that be.

“We understand that there’s so many people that are looking up to us, that are looking to see if we say something or if we speak up for them.”

The IOC has not indicated what the potential sanctions could be against the shot-put star, who competed in a mask featuring ‘The Hulk’ – the Marvel character she sees as something of an alter ego.   

Elsewhere at the Games, athlete protests have included stars taking the knee before competition, while Germany’s women’s hockey team wore rainbow armbands for their matches. 

Teenage Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado took the knee and raised her first at the end of her routine last week, in a Black Lives Matter tribute. 

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Team GB star Lucy Bronze takes a knee while the Aussie team also made an Olympic gesture. © Getty Images / AFP
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