An American shot putter has vowed to keep her Olympic silver medal after being accused of breaking the rules by making a political gesture on the podium.
In the photoshoot after the medal ceremony on Sunday night, Raven Saunders stepped off the podium, raised her arms above her head and formed an “X” with her wrists.
When asked what this meant, she told reporters: “This is the crossroads where all the oppressed meet.”
Saunders, 25, who introduces himself as “The Hulk” by competing in a superhero mask and dyes his hair green and purple, said in a late night Twitter post: “Let them try to take this [silver] medal.
“I’m running across the border even though I can’t swim.”
Her gesture was to support the oppressed, she said, retweeting an article on the action by theGrio news site.
It is not known if she will be punished and talks are underway between Olympic officials and bosses of American teams, said the chief spokesperson of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), Mark Adams.
Kate Hartman, chief spokesperson for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said he reminded the IOC that Saunders did not compromise the awarding of medals or the performance of the Chinese anthem.
China‘s Gong Lijiao won gold in this event.
The IOC, which bans demonstrations on the podium or during competitions, said Sunday evening that an athlete’s National Olympic Committee was required to issue any required sanctions.
U.S. officials have said they will not punish any athlete for exercising their right to free speech that does not express hatred.
Last month, the IOC relaxed rules prohibiting athletes from demonstrating, allowing them to gesture on the pitch, provided they do so without disruption and with respect for other competitors.
But the threat of sanctions remains for the protests made on the podium during the medal ceremony.
If the IOC orders the Americans to punish an athlete and they refuse to do so, they would be violating the Olympic Charter.
The Tokyo Games have already seen their fair share of protests.
Also on Sunday, American fencer Race Imboden won the bronze medal in foil with an X circled on his hand. The meaning of the symbol remains unclear, but Imboden has knelt on the podium in previous tournaments to draw attention to racism and gun violence.
Elsewhere, the captain of the German women’s hockey team wore a rainbow-colored armband in solidarity with LGBTQ communities during team matches.
The Australian women’s football team flew an indigenous flag ahead of their opening match and several other women’s teams, including the GB team, knelt to protest against racial inequalities.
Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado raised her fist while taking the knee at the end of her routine, in favor of racial equality.