Charleston native Raven Saunders won the silver medal Saturday in the shot put — the high point of the 25-year-old Burke High School graduate’s athletic career so far.
In the final field of 12 in the women’s event, Saunders was edged out only by Chinese competitor Lijao Gong, whose final two throws of over 20 meters bested Saunders’ longest throw of 19.79 meters. New Zealand thrower Valerie Adams took the bronze.
American Jessica Ramsey did not compete in the event Saturday.
The Tokyo games are Saunders’ second Olympics, but after finishing fifth in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, Saturday’s medal is her first.
Saunders has made her mark on this year’s games, and as an openly gay athlete who has felt the impact of mental health struggles and poverty, she’s also been outspoken about issues important to her. On the medal stand, Saunders raised her hands over her head in a defiant X, a protest that Yahoo Sports called the “most high-profile protest yet” in Tokyo.
“It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet,” she told the Associated Press.
Saunders has also made a point to make herself known with brightly colored hair, outlandish face masks, metallic grills in her teeth and more.
“People told me not to do tattoos and piercings, but now look at me — I’m popular,” she said.
In Charleston, Saunders was cheered on by supporters at a watch party held at the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center downtown. Saunders’ immediate family watched from a U.S. Olympic team gathering in Orlando, Florida, according to WCBD-TV.
Charleston-area native Jasmine Camacho-Quinn, competing for Puerto Rico, will run in the finals of the 100 meter hurdles tonight at 10:50 p.m. after setting an Olympic record in the semi-finals.