Gwen Berry raised a fist twice before the hammer thrower started her competition at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday night.
Berry recorded a 71.35 in the hammer throw but finished far from the podium. She finished in 11th out of 12 competitors. Poland’s Anita Wlodarczyk won the gold medal and Malwina Kopron won the bronze medal. China’s Wang Zheng won the silver.
Berry, who created a firestorm when she turned her back to the flag during the national anthem at U.S. Olympic trials last month, raised her fist as a form of protest before competing.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) relaxed its rules regarding political protests allowing athletes to perform a gesture before the competition officially starts. The U.S. women’s soccer team did that before its first match against Sweden. Raven Saunders put up an "X" on the medals podium even as gestures on the podium are prohibited. The IOC was investigating Saunders’ gesture.
"It was the same thing: social injustice, racial injustice, I’m just here to represent," Berry said of the gesture, via USA Today. "I know a lot of people like me, a lot of athletes like me, a lot of people are scared to succeed, a lot of people scared to speak out. So as long as I can represent those people, I’m fine."
She added: "All those people that’s happy that I failed, that’s cool, but they’re sitting on their couch, watching me fail, so what does that tell you about them?"
Berry previously raised a fist during the 2019 Pan American Games and she was put on probation by the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC). The USOPC said before the Tokyo Olympics it wasn’t going to punish any athletes who protested during the Games but warned of potential IOC discipline.
The IOC said it was investigating Saunders’ gesture — something that drew Berry’s ire.
"I think it’s ridiculous that the IOC is really paying attention to that only because she did it towards the end of everything," she said. "They literally took their picture, she literally respected everybody on the podium. It was right before they were going off the podium (that she raised her arms and made an X) at the end. I feel she should not be punished so I hope the USOPC supports her and fights for her so she keeps her medal and she’s supported."
Berry admitted she was "bummed" over her performance and that she wouldn’t be bringing home a medal for the U.S. She finished third in her group in the qualification round with a 73.19.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.