Message sent: Berry turns away from the flag during the anthem

EUGENE, Ore. – Over the past week, they played the national anthem once a night at the Olympic track and field trials in the United States.

On Saturday, the song began as outspoken activist Gwen Berry stood on the podium after receiving her bronze medal in the hammer throw.

As the music played, Berry placed his left hand on his hip and wiggled his feet. She did a quarter turn, so she was facing the stands, not the flag. Towards the end, she ripped off her black T-shirt with the words “Activist Athlete” on the front and draped it over her head.

“I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose,” Berry said of the timing of the anthem. “I was pissed off, to be honest.”

Berry’s reaction to the “Star-Spangled Banner” took its fair share of the spotlight on an extremely hot penultimate day during practice which also featured extremely fast times.

Gabby Thomas became the second-fastest woman of all time in the 200, winning the final in 21.61 seconds. The only faster woman: Florence Griffith-Joyner. And, as expected, Grant Holloway won the 110-meter hurdles, although his time in the semi-finals was a revelation. His 12.81 was just 0.01 off the world record.

Other Saturday winners included Emily Sisson (10,000), Katie Nageotte (pole vault), Maggie Malone (javelin), Rai Benjamin (400 hurdles) and Brittney Reese (long jump).

Non-winner: Allyson Felix, who finished fifth in the 200, but already had his place secured in the 400.

Additionally, Noah Lyles finished second in his 200 semi-final and looked somewhat shocked that 17-year-old Erriyon Knighton had beaten him to the line. Knighton finished in 19.88 to break an under-20 world record held by none other than Usain Bolt.

Berry has vowed to use his position to continue raising awareness of social injustices in his home country.

“My purpose and my mission are bigger than sport,” Berry said. “I am here to represent those (…) who have died because of systemic racism. This is the important part. That’s why I’m going. That’s why I’m here today. “

She found it was no coincidence that she was in the foreground during the anthem. Unlike the Olympics, they do not play hymns to accompany the medal ceremonies during the trials. But the hammer throwers received their awards just before the start of the evening session, which kicked off all week with a video rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” played on the scoreboard.

US Athletics spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said “the national anthem was scheduled to be played at 5:20 pm today. We didn’t wait for the athletes to be on the podium for the hammer throw awards. The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule. On Saturday, the music started at 5:25 am.

And so, as winner DeAnna Price and second place Brooke Andersen stood motionless on the podium with their hands over their hearts and stared straight in front of the US and Oregon flags, Berry waved and walked on the third step. . Then turned away. And finally grabbed his T-shirt.

“They said they were going to play it before we went out, and then they played it when we were there,” Berry said. “But I don’t really want to talk about the anthem because it’s not important. The hymn does not speak for me. It never was. “

Berry’s gestures elicited virtually no reaction from the still full bleachers. And that was way less than two summers ago, when she raised her fist on the podium after winning the Pan Am Games.

This protest led to a sanction, but ultimately prompted the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee to pledge not to punish athletes who raise their fists or kneel during trials or in Tokyo. It’s a potential flashpoint for Tokyo, where the IOC has said it will enforce its Rule 50 which bans protests inside the lines. It was the same ban that fired sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos from the 1968 Mexico Games.

Now Berry will head to her second Olympics and she saw what it would take to win something close to a similar time in Tokyo.

Price won with a 263-foot-6 (80.31-meter) throw, almost 7 feet longer than Berry’s throw. Price, who became only the second woman in history to cross the 80m, had no problem sharing the stage with Berry.

“I think people should say whatever they want. I’m proud of her, ”Price said.

She plans to go for gold with world record holder Anita Wlodarczyk from Poland, who is expected to be in Japan. Meanwhile, Andersen’s throw was only 2 inches off Berry’s personal best.

Berry said she needed to “straighten out my body, mind and spirit” for the Olympics. The women’s hammer throw begins August 1.

But she doesn’t think she needs to be on the podium in Tokyo to make an impact.

“I don’t need to do anything sporting,” she said. “What I have to do is speak on behalf of my community, represent my community and help my community. Because it’s more important than sport. “

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