Raven Saunders is the Tokyo Olympic silver medalist in the shot put. Raven powered a 19.79m throw, just a smidge off her PB. Her silver in 2021 was a big improvement off her silver in Rio 2016.
In this first of Sam Fariss’s weekly columns for RunBlogRun, Sam choose to write about Raven Saunders, and not only how she is providing an inspiration for young women shot putters, but also the LBGT community and those who have questions about mental health.
Raven has been wonderfully outspoken on mental health and was quite honest about her grief and challenges with the recent death of her mother.
We thank Raven for her honesty, and welcome Sam Fariss to @runblogrun.
A few more Ravens wouldn’t be an unkindness
By Sam Fariss
At just 25-years-old, Raven Saunders has become a female icon, a Black icon and an LGBTQ+ community icon, as well as turning the heads of non-fans toward the sport of track and field.
Saunders, a two-time Olympian for Team USA, has repeatedly used her platform to speak up about mental health and the struggles associated with coming out to those around you as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. As someone who came out to her family in third grade, Saunders has a lot of pride for who she has become while overcoming internal struggles.
Following the Rio de Janeiro Games, Saunders shared through an Instagram post that she was heading down a path to “carrying (out) an attempt to end my life.”
Saunders has touched on the fact that within the Black community, mental health isn’t often discussed unless it is in regards to someone who is “completely off the rails.” However, Saunders has used her voice to advocate for the use of therapy.
“If not for sending a text to an old therapist I would not be here,” Saunders said.
Despite collecting a silver medal in Tokyo and earning three NCAA titles for shot put during her collegiate career, Saunders has shared that the atmosphere of athletics is not always conducive with caring for your mental health needs.
People Saunders’ age, she has shared, don’t care what you look like, who you like, or what you do – the ‘young generation’ just wants you to be you. For her, that’s only made it easier to be herself on an international stage. She has felt more welcome to show up in face masks that represent the Joker and the Hulk or dye her hair green and purple.
Feeling comfortable in her own skin has made her realize just how important it is to care for your mind and your body – even though those two may seem obvious needs for a professional athlete.
“I’ve gotten to a point now where I know that my mental health has to come first. So, whatever that takes or whatever that looks like, you know, however, you know unorthodox it may be. I’m taking it,” Saunders said.