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The IOC Has Suspended Its Investigation Into Raven Saunders' Podium Demonstration

Team USA's Raven Saunders with her silver medal in the women's shot put event Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics. During the medal ceremony, Saunders lifted her arms above her head and formed an "X' with her wrists.
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AP
Team USA's Raven Saunders with her silver medal in the women's shot put event Sunday at the Tokyo Olympics. During the medal ceremony, Saunders lifted her arms above her head and formed an "X' with her wrists.

The International Olympic Committee has suspended its investigation into a podium demonstration by U.S. shot-putter Raven Saunders amid the unexpected news of her mother's death.

Saunders, the 25-year-old LGBTQ+ athlete who took silver in the shot put, made headlines Sunday for lifting her arms above her head and forming an "X" with her wrists while standing on the podium where she and other medalists posed to celebrate their victories. Saunders explained that the symbol represents "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet," according to The Associated Press.

The following day the IOC launched a probe into Saunders' gesture, citing Olympic rules prohibiting athletes from exhibiting "[any] kind of demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda" in 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, Fla., two days after watching her daughter win her first Olympic medal.

Saunders called her mom her ''guardian angel''

Saunders' mother had been in Orlando with the shot-putter's younger sister Tanzania Saunders attending Olympic watch parties with other families of Team USA athletes. The cause of death remains unknown.

"The IOC obviously extended its condolences to Raven and her family," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said Wednesday. "Given these circumstances, the process at the moment is fully suspended."

Saunders later took to Twitter to recognize her mother and said she would be taking a break from social media to care for her mental well-being and her family.

"My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me," Saunders said. "My number one guardian angel. I will always and forever love you."

Saunders has been a fan favorite in Tokyo

Saunders is one of nearly 200 LGBTQ+ athletes competing in this year's Games, according to Outsports, and has become an Olympic favorite known for her colorful "Hulk" persona.

Throughout her career, she has been outspoken about the obstacles she has struggled with and overcome throughout her life. She told NBC Sports' On Her Turf how she felt after achieving her silver medal 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, people who have battled suicide, so many people who have almost given up. ... It's not just about me."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Xcaret Nuñez

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