Photo by Alex Smith on Unsplash

Burke High School grad and Charleston native Raven Saunders will advance to the women’s shot put finals in Tokyo after launching the third-best throw during the qualifying round this morning at 5:45 a.m.

Donning a Joker mask, iridescent sunglasses and her bright green and purple hair, Saunders stepped into the stadium with the confidence of a champion, setting the tone that she is not a competitor to be messed with. After fouling on her first throw, which breezed past the qualifying mark at 18.8 meters, she launched her next shot 19.22 meters, just trailing behind another two qualifying athletes Gon Lijiao (19.46 meters) and Song Jiayuan (19.23 meters) both representing China.

A four-time NCAA champion and Charleston native, Saunders placed fifth in the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. Now, she’ll move on to compete for gold during the Tokyo 2020 finals, airing Sat., July 31 at 9:35 p.m. Her teammate Jessica Ramsey will join her in the finals after placing 10th with a throw of 18.75 meters.

The City of Charleston will host an Olympic Finals Watch Party Sat., July 31 at 8 p.m. at the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center, located at 265 Fishburne St. to support Saunders during the final shot put round.

During the Olympic Track and Field trials in June, Saunders broke her personal record when she threw 19.96 meters, currently the third best in the world.

Check out a video of her Olympic-qualifying throw during the June trials: