The “Incredible Hull” mask is not meant to fool anyone. Raven Saunders doesn’t have anything to hide.
A 25-year old American shot putter could be the face and voice of the Tokyo Olympics and all that they stand for. He could be seen wearing the green and purple superhero face covering, with the neon-blue shades, and could win a shiny silver medal.
Saunders formed an “X” with her wrists during the photo op at Sunday’s medals ceremony. When asked what this meant, Saunders explained that it was the intersection where all oppressed people meet.
Saunders, an openly gay person, felt a sense of accomplishment when she saw poverty and depression in her Black community. She often wonders if there is a place for someone like her in the Olympics.
She is determined to take her place in any way she sees fit. And in a space where Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka and other, better-known Olympians, have been speaking their truth, Saunders is more than willing to share hers, too.
“To be me. When asked about her ultimate goal, she replied that she would not be sorry. To show young people that you don’t have to conform to any box and you can be yourself. People tried to tell my not to get tattoos or piercings. Look at me now and you’ll see that I’m a poppin’.
The Hulk mask that Saunders started wearing not so long ago has its roots in many things. It is a reminder of the fact that a woman who has bench-pressed 480 pounds, squatted 700lbs, and won four NCAA championship titles may look tough from the outside but could be quite different from her inner self.
Saunders, who had been to Rio de Janeiro Olympics and was in the midst a career that was going up, stated in an Instagram post, “carrying out an attempt to end (my) life.”
She said, “If it wasn’t for sending a message to an old therapist, I wouldn’t be here (right now)”. “All these things that had been weighing heavily on my mind for 22 years, I finally was able to process them. “I was finally able separate Raven and ‘The Hulk.
Saunders is one of around 180 out LGBTQ athletes competing at the Tokyo Olympics, according to the website Outsports, which estimates that’s more than triple the number who competed in Brazil five years ago.
Recently, she shared with the website that she first came out to her mom in 3rd grade. In sixth grade she was exposed to her classmates. In ninth grade she began to feel comfortable with herself. Saunders was out by the time she reached college.
It wasn’t an easy path.
Saunders stated that “I feel like there’s an atmosphere around a lot things, especially when you do so well, so you don’t need to worry about anything,”. It was like a whirlwind for me.
Sunday was her platform to discuss mental health in particular the Black community. She saw that depression and other symptoms went untreated for many years. She called it “The Crazy House” because that is how some Black homes were referred to when the symptoms were not only seen, but also checked.
She stated that her classmates and friends now see therapists where they wouldn’t have done it a few years back.
She said, “It’s okay to need people. And I feel like in my community, a lot more times throughout history, we haven’t had the resources to do that.”
Gwen Berry, a hammer thrower and outspoken Gwen Saunders’s friend during her time at the University of Mississippi, is one of those Saunders has turned to recently.
Berry stated that Raven has gone through hell and back after she reached the finals of her own competition. I’m so happy to have seen her win and thrive. Let me tell you something: About two months ago, she called me to cry. She’s been through so much. “So I’m happy to be with her.”
These struggles aren’t nearly as difficult today as they were five years ago, three years ago, or one year ago. Saunders, who has a spot on the podium for the Olympics, seems ready to make her mark in this discussion.
She’s discovering that she’s not the only one out there.
Saunders stated, “I think my generation really doesn’t care.” “Shout out all my Black people, shoutout to all my LBGTQ communities, shoutout to everyone dealing with mental illness. We understand that it is bigger than us and that it is bigger than the powers that are.