Team USA’s Gwen Berry, best known for turning her back on the American flag during a medal ceremony at the U.S. Olympic Trials, has said that she plans to protest again if she wins a medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
Berry qualified for the hammer throw over the weekend in the event’s Group B preliminaries, allowing her to compete in the women’s medal round on Tuesday.
Berry is not expected to win a medal, as she would need to defeat her American teammate, Brooke Anderson, and world-leading hammer throwers from China and Poland, but said she intends to make a political statement if she does win.
Addressing critics who claimed she should be replaced by a more patriotic athlete, staying, “I feel like I’ve earned the right to wear this uniform. I’ll represent the oppressed people,” Berry added. “That’s been my message for the last three years.”
Berry has made political demonstrations on numerous occasions, once during the American national anthem in an international competition when she won a medal at the Pan American Games two years ago, as well as turning her back on the flag during a medal ceremony, which earned her a fine from the Games, as political demonstrations are prohibited.
More recently, Berry made headlines after turning her back on the national anthem during the U.S. Olympic Trials after placing bronze. Wearing an “activist athlete” shirt, Berry looked towards the press instead of the flag alongside her teammates.
Following Berry’s demonstration, she claimed that she believed the anthem incident was a “set-up,” which USA Track and Field denied to the Associated Press.
“I feel like it was set up,” Berry said. “I feel like they did that on purpose, and I was pissed, to be honest. I was thinking about what should I do. Eventually, I just stayed there and just swayed. I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful. I know they did that on purpose, but it’ll be all right. I see what’s up.”
“The national anthem was scheduled to play at 5:20 p.m. today,” USA Track and Field spokesman Susan Hazzard said. “We didn’t wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule.”
Speaking to the media, Berry claims the negative attention from before the Games is not affecting her performance in Tokyo.
“I’m just focused on what I need to do,” Berry told reporters. “Because all those people who hate me, they aren’t here. So they can’t affect me.