adobe illustrator cc 2015 preferences free serial microsoft office 2013 product key free ableton live 9 suite daw software free dwf viewer free download for windows 10 64 bit logic pro x tutorials free adobe premiere pro cc 2017 free softonic free dot net 3.5 windows 10 download offline installer amd radeon hd 6320 graphics driver download windows 10
35.8 C
Doha
Wednesday, October 5, 2022
HomeSportsLGBT+ History Month: Olympic silver medallist Raven Saunders wants to create a...

LGBT+ History Month: Olympic silver medallist Raven Saunders wants to create a safe space for next generation to come out



Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

During LGBT+ History Month Raven Saunders speaks to Sky Sports News about her identity, mental health struggles, being an icon, and her future ambitions

During LGBT+ History Month Raven Saunders speaks to Sky Sports News about her identity, mental health struggles, being an icon, and her future ambitions

Raven Saunders won the silver medal in the women’s shot put at the Olympics in Tokyo last year and joined a small number of US athletes who have protested while getting a medal.

She tells Sky Sports News how the moment changed her life, and speaks about her recent mental health struggles, and how she thrives on being an icon for the LGBT+ community.

Saunders is open about her identity and at the top of her Twitter page she highlights an image at a recent superhero themed photoshoot (see below) to joke that she represents everything “they” hate.

She told Sky Sports News: “The reason why I put out that tweet is because with the media, and especially when we talk about the beauty standard, or even when we talk about track and field and what events are usually in the spotlight, shot put is not an event that many people know.

“And also I’m a bigger woman. I don’t fit the track and field body stereotype! It’s just nice to be able to represent a group that’s also a part of this community that hasn’t really been represented so much.”

Saunders says she was always competitive while growing up but it was basketball that was her “first love”.

“Track and field was just something that fell into my lap,” she added.

Saunders with the United States flag after finishing second in the women's shot put in the Olympics

Saunders with the United States flag after finishing second in the women’s shot put in the Olympics

“So pretty much the same attitude and mentality that I had towards playing basketball and trying to be a five-foot-five WNBA player … I just transferred that energy over to track and field and to the shot put.”

Why I speak out about mental health

Saunders says it was only when she reached university that she was told she needed help for her mental health. She had a series of what she describes as “aptitude tests” before she “ended up in therapy”.

I was like, ‘OK alright, we’ll see how this goes’. [It] was a really great resource. honestly. and I’m so thankful for it. And I really feel that more schools really need to have a bigger counsellors’ programme.”

The American also explains that talking and dealing with mental health problems in Black communities and poorer areas remains a big issue.

Saunders competing in a qualifying round at her first Olympics in Rio in 2016

Saunders competing in a qualifying round at her first Olympics in Rio in 2016

“I was 20 at the time and I was seeing a therapist, and she was the one that actually was like, ‘Hey, I think you’ve been dealing with this…’,” the Olympic silver medallist added. Saunders had depression and was also subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and post-traumatic stress syndrome.

She says: “For me and especially where I come from, mental health and those things, unless you have something that’s visible that people can see or everyone knows exactly what it is, we don’t name it.

“So it wasn’t something that I could name. It was just, ‘Oh this is just how my life is. Oh, this is just how my mind is’, because so many people that I grew up around had dealt with the same thing so I just thought it was normal. And thankfully I was able to have that help of a professional who was able to identify it for me.”

Saunders with her hair dyed in two different colours

Saunders with her hair dyed in two different colours

In 2018 while she was at the University of Mississippi she admits she had “a breakdown”. She has spoken about her struggles in several interviews, which included depression and considering ending her own life.

Saunders tries to explain what it was like to struggle with mental health.

“It’s like you’re drowning and you can see the surface but you can’t save yourself,” she said. “And you start feeling like people are around and you can see other people that can save you. But it’s like they can’t either.

“You feel like you’re alone, like you’re really in that fight alone. Mississippi is very old school when it comes to things. And for me, being a young Black gay woman in a school environment where I didn’t see people who represented what I represented or being at this level and being unique and people not understanding me.

“[It] made it that much more frustrating because it was like, ‘I’m offering this but what do I get in return?’. And that’s really where the challenge and the battles for me came.”

Saunders is now part of a growing number of elite Black athletes like Naomi Osaka, and the Americans Simone Biles and Noah Lyles, who are willing to speak openly about their mental health.

‘I was forced out of the closet in the fifth grade’

Saunders is now publicly out as a gay athlete and proud to talk about her sexuality. Her social media displays the rainbow colours and she regularly talks about the LGBT+ community in media interviews.

But this was not always the case. She says she was “forced out of the closet in the fifth grade” which is around the age when people start secondary school. Despite coming out to her mother several years earlier, it was not a happy period.

The impact, she says, was “friends isolating themselves from me, or people treating me different or acting weirdly around me”. She also says this period played a part in her journey to depression.

But by the time she started university she was openly out and now enjoys being seen by many as an icon.

“When it came to it I always tried to accept people for who they are,” said the 25-year-old, who was speaking to Sky’s Gail Davis from her new training base in Tennessee.

Lindsey Vonn talks about mental health, depression, double standards facing women, and her favourite British tradition

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Lindsey Vonn talks about mental health, depression, double standards facing women, and her favourite British tradition

Lindsey Vonn talks about mental health, depression, double standards facing women, and her favourite British tradition

“I always tried to just be myself because that’s always what I wanted to be. And there’s been so many spaces where that hasn’t been accepted, especially, for people of the LGBTQ community. Being able to see how society is progressing and how we’re gaining more rights and we’re doing better.

“I just want to be a part of that push for that next generation to feel more comfortable in their own skin. I remember being forced out of the closet in the fifth grade and what that felt like. And being able to create a space now where kids can come out and feel safe is just something that I would love to be able to do.

‘The X protest opened so many doors’

Saunders was competing at her second Olympics in Tokyo. After a fifth-placed finish she won her first Olympic medal last year in the shot put.

Saunders (left) protests on the podium after receiving her Olympic silver medal in the women's shot put in Tokyo

Saunders (left) protests on the podium after receiving her Olympic silver medal in the women’s shot put in Tokyo

Saunders threw 19.79 metres (64ft, 11ins) – just off her personal best of 19.96m – to finish behind Gong Lijiao of China, who threw a personal best 20.58m.

The 25-year-old raised her arms into an ‘X’ above her head. During the photo session after the medal ceremony she stepped off the podium, lifted her arms above her head and formed an ‘X’ with her wrists.

Asked what it meant, she told reporters: “It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

It was not a spontaneous gesture.

Saunders protesting by raising her arms into an 'X'

Saunders protesting by raising her arms into an ‘X’

She said: “I thought about it a lot leading up to that because I knew that my story could inspire so many people. The amount of times that I could have given up or could have lost my life along this journey is insane.

“And I know that in life, there’s so many people who aren’t throwing the shot put that are experiencing similar things. So when I got up there, I knew that moment was bigger than my self-respect too because of the pandemic and everything that everyone had went through.

“This moment was bigger than me. There was no way that I can get up there and deny the rest of the world – the people who are dealing with similar things are the people that could be inspired for my story or the people that could be told ‘you got this’ and not give them that moment.”

Under the IOC’s Rule 50, any kind of ‘demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda’ in venues and any other Olympic area, including on the medal podium, was prohibited.

The rule was partially relaxed for Tokyo, permitting peaceful protest prior to competition and allowing teams such as the Team GB women’s football team to take a knee before matches.

China's Gong Lijiao poses with her gold medal next to Saunders with New Zealand's Valerie Adams getting the bronze medal

China’s Gong Lijiao poses with her gold medal next to Saunders with New Zealand’s Valerie Adams getting the bronze medal

The IOC did investigate Saunders but the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee said her protest did not break its own rules. A few days later Saunders’ mother died and the IOC decided to suspend its investigation.

Saunders has no regrets about her visible and famous protest and describes the reaction in the last six months as “amazing”.

She added: “It’s been a lot better than anything that I ever could have imagined. With the whole IOC investigation, I made light of it making TikToks.

“And the amount of people that came up to me in the community thanking me, telling me what it meant, that I’ve met and being able to have genuine conversations with. And the amount of opportunities that door has opened, it’s been absolutely mind-blowing.”

Hulk and Joker face masks to TEDx talk

Saunders styles herself as ‘The Hulk’ which was a high-school nickname after the Marvel Comic superhero. She explains it is her alter ego where she uses her power and strength when needing it most.

Saunders with her famous face Hulk face mask in the final of the women's shot put in Tokyo

Saunders with her famous face Hulk face mask in the final of the women’s shot put in Tokyo

During qualification, she also sported green and purple hair to match a grinning Joker face mask before returning to ‘The Hulk’ for her medal-winning round.

It helped her become a social media star, and her regular authentic TikTok videos have got over five million likes, and over 180,000 followers.

Her next hair colour will be red which was decided by a vote of children at a local elementary school. Saunders promises to continue the trend of having different colours throughout the year.

Saunders wore a face mask inspired by the Batman character 'The Joker' in a qualifying round at the Olympics last year

Saunders wore a face mask inspired by the Batman character ‘The Joker’ in a qualifying round at the Olympics last year

The American will get a new chance to use her platform to speak about her experiences later this month in Charleston in South Carolina, the city where she grew up.

“One thing I’m actually looking forward to working on is TEDx,” she says.

“And also turning that into motivational speaking because I feel like I have a lot to say and I really want to inspire people. And it’s something that I listen to and I’ll get pumped up and when I’m trying to transition so it’s something that I’d like to do.”

She is also not shy about showing her Olympic silver medal to fans and locals, and jokes she might even take it to the local supermarket.

“This medal isn’t just mine, it’s everyone’s medal, the community’s medal. So I feel like everyone should have the chance to see it. Touch it, feel it. They deserve it.”

If you are affected by issues related to mental wellbeing or want to talk, please contact the Samaritans on the free helpline 116 123, or visit the website





Source link

RELATED ARTICLES
- Advertisment -
Shopeso

Most Popular

Recent Comments