Silver medal-winning shot putter Raven Saunders has been dominating Olympic headlines after making an “X” formation over her head while on the podium in a sign of protest — after competing in a “Hulk” mask, celebrating with a twerk and sporting her purple and green-dyed hair.
US officials have defended the symbolic gesture, announcing in a Monday statement that Saunders didn’t break any rules, but she may still face punishment from the International Olympic Committee due to an Olympic ban on medal ceremony protests.
As the possibility of penalization remains, many are seeking further details on Saunders, the self-proclaimed “Hulk” of track and field. Here are some key facts about the 25-year-old track and field athlete.
Who is Raven Saunders?
Saunders was born and raised in Charleston, South Carolina where she attended Burke High School, graduating in 2014 — the same year she broke the national high school record for the shot put — and moving on to the University of Mississippi. In college, the rising 5-foot-5 star won three NCAA collegiate shot put titles among other awards. (In addition to shot put, she also competes in the discus throw.)
On top of her athletic achievements, Saunders has also been widely lauded for being vocal about her sexuality — she is openly gay — and her struggles with depression.
“For everything I’ve been through mental health-wise, injuries, you know, everything like that … being able to really invest everything I’ve had mentally and physically and to be able to walk away with a medal, and be able to go out here and really inspire so many people … I really just hope that I can continue to inspire and motivate,” she said following her Olympic win this Sunday.
Why does she identify with the Incredible Hulk?
Saunders has opened up about her decision to wear an Incredible Hulk mask Sunday, despite face masks not being required during competition.
“[Through] my journey, especially dealing with mental health and things like that, I learned how to compartmentalize, the same way that Bruce Banner learned to control the Hulk, learned how to let the Hulk come out during the right moments and that way it also gave him a sign of mental peace,” she told Yahoo! Sports. “But when the Hulk came out, the Hulk was smashing everything that needed to be smashed.”