The International Olympic Committee has suspended an investigation into a possible podium protest from shot-putter Raven Saunders, after the American revealed her mother had died.
The 25-year-old made an ‘X’ with her arms when she collected her silver medal and said afterwards that it represented the “intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet”. That potentially breaks the IOC’s rules on demonstrations during competition or medal ceremonies, though ‘Rule 50’ was partially relaxed before the Games so that athletes could make statements before the action starts.
But Saunders said this morning that her mother, Clarissa, has died in Florida, with the athlete saying “my mama was a great woman and will forever live through me. My number one guardian angel.”
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In a statement, the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said: "Her mother leaves behind an incredible legacy in her daughter for who we are so proud and grateful to call our team-mate.
"Our thoughts and prayers are with the entire Saunders family during this difficult time."
Saunders says she is taking a break from social media to “take care of my mental [health] and my family” but although the investigation has been suspended, it is possible it will be picked up again once enough time has passed.
IOC spokesperson Mark Adams says the organising body “extends its condolences to Raven and her family”, but Saunders has already spoken openly about the protest and her struggles with depression.
The track and field athlete, who as a black, gay woman says she is looking to be a role model for others to follow.
"I really think that my generation really don't care," Saunders said of potential sanctions from the IOC.
"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."
Separately, the IOC says it is still looking into the two Chinese cyclists, Bao Shaunjiu and Zhong Tianshi, who wore pins with the face of the country’s controversial former leader Mao Zedong during their medal ceremony in the team sprint.
It is unclear what punishment they could face if they are found guilty of an offence.
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