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Burke High School alum Raven Saunders qualifies for women’s shot put finals in Tokyo

Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 4:31 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 30, 2021 at 1:05 PM EDT
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CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - Family and friends of Raven Saunders cheered Friday morning as they watched the 25-year-old place first in qualifying throws for the women’s shot put finals.

Saunders’ throw was 19.22 meters, earning her a spot at the finals Saturday night.

Supporters cheered at Burke High School, where Saunders graduated in 2014. Two years later, she competed in her first Olympic games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Clarissa Saunders, Raven’s mother, said she wishes she could be there in person to “grab a hug.”

“Not being there is a bummer, but we’re cheering her from here,” she said. “She knows we’re here cheering for her, so she’ll do good.”

But she said when Raven gets back to Charleston, she said she’ll “hug her for a while!”

She says the family has been able to keep in touch with Raven while she has been in Tokyo, sending positive messages to stay focused.

“If you believe you can do it, you can do it,” her mother said. “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’s sister, Tanzania, says she is still a bit speechless because of the community support she has seen.

Burke High School Assistant Principal Corey McDonald, who taught Raven during her time at the school, described her as a wonderful student.

“She always wanted to be the best and she was just great. She helped her classmates and was always willing to be the leader in the classroom,” he said. “We couldn’t be more excited or proud just to see where she started and where she is now as an Olympian is absolutely amazing.”

Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg was among the supporters who came out to cheer Saunders to her latest victory Friday morning.

“This is so exciting, she just had a great throw,” he said. “We’re so proud of her. All of Team Raven is here, and this morning, all of Charleston is Team Raven. We’re supporting her. It’s incredible!”

He called her life story one of inspiration for young people and everyone in Charleston.

For those who could not attend the watch party in person, her supporters even held a virtual Zoom party.

Saunders placed fifth at the 2016 Olympics. The Lowcountry native qualified to go to Tokyo late last month by finishing 2nd in the shot put competition at the U.S. Olympic Trials in Eugene, Oregon.

She threw a personal best of 19.96 meters on her third throw of the finals, a throw that also set a record for the tournament. But that record was short lived as Jessica Ramsey would throw 20.12 meters just a few minutes later.

This year, she is looking to bring home her first medal.

The City of Charleston will host an Olympic Finals Watch Party in support of Saunders at 8 p.m., Saturday, July 31, 2021 at the Arthur W. Christopher Community Center at 265 Fishburne Street.

“We’re excited to be able to come together in support of one of Charleston’s own as she makes history in this year’s Olympic Games,” Tecklenburg said, I hope members of the community will join me tomorrow night to cheer Raven on as she competes for the gold.”

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