The athlete known as the “Hulk” folds his arms in an “X” to show his support for the “oppressed”.
American shot putter Raven Saunders risked disciplinary action after making the first Olympic Games podium protest.
The 25-year-old, nicknamed “Hulk” in high school after the Marvel superhero, folded his arms in an “X” gesture during the medal ceremony on Sunday at the Olympic Stadium after winning silver in his test on Sunday.
US media reported that Saunders, who is black and a strong supporter of LGBTQ rights, said his gesture was made in solidarity with “the oppressed.”
After winning her silver medal, Saunders said she wanted to represent “people around the world who are fighting and don’t have the platform to speak out.”
The Saunders protest is the first test of the International Olympic Committee’s rules which prohibit protests of any kind on the medal podium at the Olympics.
The IOC changed its rules for athlete protests before games, saying peaceful protests before competition would be allowed.
However, the governing body of the Olympics maintained a strict rule against medal podium protests.
Let them try to take this medal. I run across the border even though I can’t swim https://t.co/B59N2v9KAk
– Raven HULK Saunders (@ GiveMe1Shot) August 1, 2021
It is unclear what sanction, if any, Saunders could face.
Updated IOC guidelines released last month indicate that the disciplinary consequences of protests will be “commensurate with the level of disruption and the degree to which the breach is incompatible with Olympic values.”
The United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) said ahead of the games that it would not sanction its athletes for demonstrating.
The USOPC has relaxed its approach to athletes demonstrating on the podium after a review of the rules following nationwide protests in the United States last year following the murder of George Floyd.
Experts say the IOC is unlikely to take a brutal approach against athletes for protesting in Tokyo, given the possible public relations backlash.
The purple and green haired Saunders won the silver medal behind China’s Gong Lijiao.
“I know in life it’s going to be air combat – a lot of things won’t happen to you easily, so I expected and prepared for it,” she said of the competition.
“I want to make sure that when I’m competing against the best, I’m competing against the best at their best.”
Saunders spoke of having significant mental health issues a few years ago and suffering from bouts of depression.
“For everything I’ve been through in terms of mental health, injuries, you know, everything like that… being able to really invest everything I’ve had mentally and physically and be able to come away with a medal, and be able to come out. here and really inspire so many people… I really hope I can continue to inspire and motivate.