Mother of local Olympian Raven Saunders has died, family says

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – The mother of a Charleston Olympian has passed away.

Clarissa Saunders, the mother of silver medalist Raven Saunders, passed away recently while in Orlando, Florida, her family confirmed to News 2.

Saunders was in Florida attending a watch party for her daughter as she competed in the Tokyo Olympics.

Family members are working to bring Raven Saunders home from Japan. She tweeted earlier this week she was expected to return to the United States on Thursday.

“My mama was a great woman and will forever live through me. My number one guardian angel. I will always and forever love you,” Saunders said in a tweet Tuesday morning.

“Sandy and I are heartbroken to hear of the tragic loss of Clarissa Saunders, beloved mother to Raven Saunders and a cherished member of the Charleston community. 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,” said Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg. “On behalf of the citizens of Charleston, we pray for Raven and her family, and join them in grieving this unimaginable loss.”

Raven Saunders, who has been known to wear an “Incredible Hulk” mask during the Games, won a silver medal on Sunday.

During the photo-op at her medals ceremony Sunday night, the 25-year-old stepped off the podium, lifted her arms above her head and formed an “X’ with her wrists.

When asked what that meant, the openly gay athlete explained: ”It’s the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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