© 2024 WUKY
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Raven Saunders Goes Into 'Joker' Mode At Tokyo Olympics

Raven Saunders brought her A game to her shot-put qualifying round Friday — and she paired it with a striking new look. Known by her nickname the Hulk, Saunders wore a large face mask to emulate the Joker instead, complete with purple and green hair.

"That's so Raven," USA Track & Field tweeted as it shared an image of the U.S. star.

While Saunders might have sparked a debate over whether the Marvel or DC comic universes can claim the Olympic athlete because of her Joker-Hulk dichotomy, the South Carolina native showed on the field that she's not kidding around in Tokyo. Saunders recorded the longest throw of her group in Friday's qualifying, putting her comfortably into this weekend's final.

Saunders will vie for a gold medal in a field of 12 that includes China's Gong Lijiao, who was one of four athletes — along with Saunders — recording throws longer than 19 meters (more than 62 feet) during Friday's qualifying rounds.

Saunders is famous for her fierce concentration during her event, and also for her sense of style. At competitions, she has often shared handshakes and hugs with her rivals — but that's usually reserved for after they've competed.

"I'm like literally the greatest person," Saunders said Friday, according to The Associated Press. "But during competitions, I don't like anybody."

The AP adds that Saunders is hinting at bringing another eye-catching look to the final, if the official rules allow it. That final is slated for 9:35 p.m. ET Saturday.

Saunders' star rose in Rio, when she and fellow American Michelle Carter put on a show that drove the U.S. to new heights in the shot put, leading to a gold medal for Carter.

Saunders, 25, recently spoke at length about the joy she felt during those Games, as well as the deep depression and mental stress she felt in the years afterward.

She credited her therapist and a visit to a mental health facility for helping her recover and return to her sport.

"Just focusing on myself for once, after having years and years of non-stop focusing on track, it was amazing, it was needed, it was a wonderful break," Saunders said. "And it was a lifesaver."

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

Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.