TOKYO (AP) – Outspoken hammer thrower Gwen Berry was as proud as any of Tokyo’s 600 American Olympians to don the red, white and blue uniform with the letters “USA” on her chest.
“I feel like I deserved the right to wear this uniform,” she said on Sunday, after safely passing her qualifying round in her first appearance at the Tokyo Games.
She would be even happier wearing it if she stood at the medal stand while her national anthem played in a few nights. If that happens, Berry has vowed that she will do what she does whenever the spotlight shines on her.
“I will represent the oppressed people,” she said. “This has been my message for three years.
The 32-year-old Berry has been on the ground floor of the athlete activism movement that has enveloped the Olympics, not only since the torch was lit at the stadium last week, but for the past two years.
She was the one who raised her fist two years ago at the medal stand at the Pan Am Games. This gesture s parked a wide debate, then a review of what is allowed at Olympic venues where political demonstrations have long been banned.
In the first 10 days of the Olympics, this topic took precedence over mental health, which, sparked by Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka, became the center of discussion between athletes and the media in Tokyo.
Berry says that part is important to her too. Her uncle died in early 2021 and her agent died just before the Olympic trials last month.
“I felt like I was going to quit the sport in February,” she said. “It was tough. But overall, I have to be thankful that I’m alive, and I’m here, and I did.
Berry spent a quiet hour on the hot and humid ground to start day 3 of the Olympic track.
In the only medal event of the morning, Gong Lijao of China won gold in the shot put, beating Raven Saunders of the United States, who threw off her trademark “Incredible Hulk” mask and now has a medal of silver to go with her purple and green hair.
“I’m going to be me, with no excuse,” said Saunders, who is openly gay.
She has a fan in Berry who first got to know the shot putter when they were both at the University of Mississippi.
“We support each other a lot. We cry a lot with each other. So yeah, he’s my friend for sure, ”Berry said.
At this point, Berry knows who his friends are and who they aren’t.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials last month, she sparked a social media storm when she turned away from the flag while the national anthem was played at the medal ceremony. USA Track and Field only played the anthem once per day at the event, and said it was pure coincidence that Berry’s song and ceremony intersected.
Berry doesn’t believe it.
“I feel like they took this moment to take away the athletes who were on the podium because they knew how I would react,” she said.
None of that matters to her this week in Tokyo. If she achieves her goal – securing a victory at the Olympics – the cameras and the anthem will be forced to follow.
“I’m just focused on what I need to do,” Berry said. “Because all these people who hate me, they’re not here. So they can’t affect me.
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