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If she makes it to the medal podium in the women’s hammer throw, Gwen Berry intends to stand firm in her convictions.
In 2019, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee put Berry and fencer Race Imboden on probation for a year after she raised a fist and he kneeled to protest against social injustice during the medal ceremony at the Pan American Games in Peru. At the Olympic trials in June, Berry turned away from the flag during the national anthem.
On Sunday, after she advanced to Tuesday’s finals, Berry was asked how much thought she had given to what she might do on the podium if she wins a medal.
“I haven’t given it much thought because it's easy,” she said. “I’m going to represent, and that’s it.”
Berry said her first goal is to win, her second to do her best.
“My third goal is just to represent, man,” she said. “Represent the oppressed people. That’s been my message for the last three years. Just making sure that I bring awareness to the situations that are going on around the world, but especially in America with oppression and social injustice, for sure.”
Berry said she was “targeted” at the Olympic trials and that the media “capitalized off the moment” because they “knew” how she would react.
“I brought awareness to the situation that I feel like is important to focus on — I don’t feel like it was important to focus on me not standing for the flag or whatever, but what my message is,” she said. “I’ve just been compartmentalizing it and I’m just focused on what I need to do because all those people who hate me, they aren’t here, so they can’t affect me.”
Berry said she has trained at a middle school outside Houston for the last two years. She also said she has been coping with the deaths of an uncle who influenced her career and her agent, who stood by her and continued to work on her behalf after sponsors dropped her in 2019.
“He supported me when I took a stand,” she said, adding, “and he did his best to keep me in the sport, to keep me sponsored, just to keep money coming in because I had nothing. I literally had nothing, and he didn’t turn his back on me.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.