The mother of American Raven Saunders, who won a silver medal in the women’s shot put and whose notable facemasks and social activism made her one of the stars of the Games, passed away Tuesday while attending the Team USA “friends and family” hospitality event as a guest of NBC and the USOPC at Universal Orlando Resorts. The Team USA hospitality events have been featured throughout NBC's coverage of the Tokyo Olympic Games.
“Hopping off social media for a while to take care of my mental and my family,” Saunders said in a tweet on Tuesday. “My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me. My number one guardian angel. I will always and forever love you.”
Raven Saunders, nicknamed The Hulk, was a medal contender in shot put entering the Tokyo Games but made a splash in the event’s qualifying rounds by wearing a mask bearing the image of The Joker. After winning her silver medal, she used her platform to speak out for those struggling with mental health and support in minority and LGBTQ communities. After her medal ceremony last week, Saunders remained on the podium with her arms raised to form an X over her head, which she later said was an expression of support for the oppressed.
Saunders was still in Tokyo when her mother passed.
News of Clarissa Saunders’ passing has generated an outpouring of support for Raven and her family.
“The USOPC & USATF would like to offer Raven our most sincere condolences,” USA Track & Field said on Twitter. “Her mother leaves behind an incredible legacy in her daughter for who we are so proud and grateful to call our teammate. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Saunders family during this difficult time.”
Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg offered his condolences to “on behalf of the citizens of Charleston, we pray for Raven and her family, and join them in grieving this unimaginable loss.”
She was Raven’s strongest supporter, and joined us just this past Friday to cheer her daughter on as she qualified for the Olympic shot put finals,” he said.
In May, Raven Saunders posted Mother’s Day tribute to her mom on Instagram, saying:
“You’ve shown me what strength is and for that I can push through anything. You’ve shown me relentlessness and for that I’ve learned determination. You’ve given me life and shown me love and for that I owe you everything. Happy Mother’s Day to the number one woman in my life. I love you and thank you for being a great mother!!!!”