Who was Raven Saunders' mother? Clarissa Saunders dies days after daughter wins Olympic medal

While the internal probe into Raven Saunders' podium protest has been shelved, the Olympian did lose her biggest cheerleader in mom Clarissa Saunders


                            Who was Raven Saunders' mother? Clarissa Saunders dies days after daughter wins Olympic medal
Raven Saunders (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)

Just days after Olympic silver medalist Raven Saunders's controversial protest at the podium, her mother has reportedly died. Clarissa Saunder died on Tuesday, just two days after witnessing her daughter's moment of glory at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Her daughter Raven, an American shot-putter, shared the heartbreaking news through a Twitter post where she wrote: "My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me. My number one guardian angel. I will always and forever love you.”

News of Clarissa's tragic death comes days after Raven raised shockwaves by protesting at the podium as she was awarded the silver medal at the shot put finals. Raising her arms to form an X in the air, Raven told NBC that her demonstration represented "the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet". Saunders' protest followed the likes of Gwen Berry, who looked away from the American flag as the national anthem played while she was on the podium during the US Olympic Trials. Two fencers from the US men's epee team also protested by wearing pink masks after a fellow member was accused of sexual assault. But even though the probe into Saunders's protest might be put to rest in the wake of her mother's death, the athlete has surely lost her biggest cheerleader. 

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Who is Clarissa Saunders? 

Olympic silver medalist shot putter Raven Saunders was born to Herbert Johnson and Clarissa Saunders. The mother of the Olympian died on Tuesday, August 3, in Orlando, Florida, reports The Post and Courier. Clarissa was staying in the city to attend Olympic viewing parties along with the families of other US athletes. Johnson, who has also been his daughter's long-time coach, told the newspaper: "It’s just a terrible blow for Raven and her family." 

Clarissa's cause of death has not yet been revealed. It's been reported that she was staying with her second daughter and Raven's sister Tanzania in the city. The news is still startling as just four days ago she gushed about her daughter's Olympic journey and expressed regret at not being there to hug Raven in person. Wishing she could be there to see Raven and "grab a hug", Clarissa had told the press after Raven's win: "Not being there is a bummer, but we’re cheering her from here. She knows we’re here cheering for her, so she’ll do good.” She added that when Raven got back to Charleston, she would “hug her for a while!”

Raven Saunders of Team United States makes an 'X' gesture during the medal ceremony for the Women's Shot Put on day nine of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Olympic Stadium on August 1, 2021, in Tokyo, Japan (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

Raven lost her biggest cheerleader

Throughout Raven's Olympic stay in Tokyo, the family had been in touch with her constantly, cheering her on with love and support. “If you believe you can do it, you can do it,” Clarissa had said before her daughter's glorious win. “Even if she doesn’t do it, she’s still accomplished so much. I mean, whether that Gold comes back or not, she’s number one in my book.”

Raven won with a 19.79 meters toss in the shot put final on August 1. She protested with her arms crossed as an X in the air in front of photographers during the medal  ceremony. The International Olympic Committee will resume investigating whether this gesture violated 'Rule 50', which prohibits protests during the medal ceremony. Raven had said that her demonstration was to represent oppressed people “all over the world”.

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