Rebel Olympian Sets Sights on a Big Junior Season
Jan. 23, 2017

By Dylan Edwards, OleMissSports.com

Raven Saunders’ first season competing for Ole Miss included many highlights. Her school year included an NCAA outdoor shot put title, indoor and outdoor SEC shot put crowns and indoor and outdoor collegiate shot put records. She capped it off by representing the United States in Rio at the Summer Olympics.

At the Summer Games, Saunders was the youngest of the 36 throwers competing. Throwers have long careers, so she was competing against many others much more experienced than her. That did not stop her from holding herself to an extremely high standard while representing her country.

“My whole idea when it comes to competition is saying that competition is just different people,” Saunders said. “I knew that I could possibly go for the top-three positions. Once I got in there, it was about putting my best foot forward and giving it everything that I had.”

Saunders came out strong with a first attempt of 18.88 meters before fouling four-straight times.

“They were intentional fouls,” Saunders said. “My technique was off and the throw wasn’t good. Being on an Olympic stage, certain throws I just did not want to keep.”

She found one that she wanted to keep on her final throw. On the biggest stage when it mattered the most, Saunders uncorked a personal best of 19.35 meters for a strong fifth-place finish at her first Olympics.

When she returned from such an impressive showing at the Summer Games, she had it in her head to give herself a short break before getting back to work. As it turns out, Olympians are not wired that way. She has the mindset to constantly improve on her craft.

“I had no break,” Saunders said. “I tried to give myself two weeks, but throughout that two weeks I was in and out doing different things. I worked on a couple little things that we picked up on at the end of last season such as getting up in the middle and getting stronger. With me being a shorter person, you want to jump up and getting as much height as you possibly can for your shot. For me, that kind of levels my playing field.”

How is Saunders looking to follow a season that included championships and the Olympics? By adding to her collection.

“I want to go and try to get the indoor and outdoor NCAA Championships and break some records in the process.”

Through just two meets this Indoor season, Saunders’ incredible work ethic and drive is already giving her massive results. In the first meet, Saunders established a world-leading shot put of 19.1 meters, the fifth-best throw in NCAA indoor history.

“Coming into the first meet, I thought I could go 19 meters if everything went well,” Saunders said. “I was still hitting it hard. I knew I had a chance to go 19 but 19.1 was like, ‘wow’.”

That will not be the last time that Raven Saunders accomplishes something where the only way to describe it is with those three letters. Wow.

 

 

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