Francisco Seco / AP
The International Olympic Committee has suspended its investigation into a protest on the podium of American shot putter Raven Saunders amid the unexpected news of her mother’s death.
Saunders, the 25-year-old LGBTQ + athlete who won silver in the shot put, made headlines on Sunday for raising his arms above his head and forming an “X” with his wrists as she stood on the podium where she and other medalists posed to celebrate their victories. Saunders explained that the symbol represents “the intersection of where all oppressed people meet,” according to the Associated Press.
The next day, the IOC launched an investigation into Saunders’ gesture, citing Olympic rules prohibiting athletes from exhibiting “[any] any kind of political, religious or racial manifestation or propaganda “on any Olympic site, including playing fields and podiums.
But on Wednesday, the investigation was cut short following the death of the Olympian’s mother, Clarissa Saunders, who died Tuesday in Orlando, Florida, two days after watching her daughter win her first Olympic medal.
Saunders called his mother his ‘guardian angel’
Saunders’ mother was in Orlando with the shot putter’s younger sister, Tanzania Saunders, to attend Olympic parties with other athlete families from the US team. The cause of death remains unknown.
“The IOC has obviously offered its condolences to Raven and her family,” IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said on Wednesday. “In view of these circumstances, the process is currently fully suspended.”
Saunders later took to twitter to recognize her mother and said she would take a break from social media to take care of her mental well-being and her family.
“My mom was a great woman and will always live through me,” Saunders said. “My number one guardian angel. I will love you always and forever.”
Saunders has been a fan favorite in Tokyo
Saunders is one of some 200 LGBTQ + athletes competing at this year’s Games, according to Outsports, and has become an Olympic favorite known for her colorful “Hulk” character.
Throughout her career, she has spoken openly about the obstacles she has struggled with and overcome throughout her life. She told NBC Sports’ On its territory how she felt after winning her silver medal on Sunday.
“I feel amazing because I know I’m going to inspire so many people,” Saunders said proudly. “I’m about to inspire so many young girls, so many young boys, so many LGBTQ people, so many people who have struggled with suicide, so many people who have almost given up.… It’s not just about me.”