Internet favorite Raven Saunders wins silver in women’s shot put final

Internet favorite Raven Saunders wins silver in women’s shot put final

TOKYO — Raven Saunders, the American women’s shot putter who gained quick popularity at the U.S. Olympic Trials because of her menacing Joker mask and colorful hair, won the silver medal for Team USA on Sunday.

Reigning world champion Gong Lijiao of China won gold with 20.58m.

Saunders’ best throw came in at 19.79m. 

Valerie Adams of New Zealand won the bronze medal with a throw of 19.62m.

Saunders wore her Joker mask for the preliminaries, but for the final she switched to one with the Hulk’s gritted teeth and was wearing Air Jordan 13s in white and green when she changed out of her throwing shoes. Saunders’ nickname is “Hulk,” and she said like Bruce Banner, she had to learn how to compartmentalize — when to let her inner Hulk out, and when to keep it at bay.

“I was trying to lay it down today. Hulk Smash all day,” Saunders said.

In 2016, Saunders, at just 20 years old, herself something of a shot-putting prodigy, watched fellow American Michelle Williams win gold in Rio. Saunders, who finished fifth that year, vowed to be back and better.

“I remember watching her in that moment and thinking, ‘that’s going to be me, I’m going to make sure that that person is me,’” Saunders said. “I made sure when I came out from 2016, constantly fighting and constantly pushing through everything I made sure that I walked away with a medal.”

Saunders’ second of six throws went beyond the 20-meter mark but her momentum was such on her spin that her foot came down just outside the throwing circle so the throw was counted as a foul. 

She revealed that she was throwing with a torn right labrum in her hip, suffered just a month before U.S. Trials, and also tweaked an Achilles in the preliminaries here.

“But hey, whatever — we got a medal,” she chuckled.

Fellow American Jessica Ramsey had a heartbreaking final, fouling on all three of her throws. She was in tears on the bench after her final try, which sailed just wide of the legal sector, and walked quietly past media in the mixed zone, her eyes shielded by sunglasses.

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