Costa Rican gymnast Luciana Alvarado took a knee and thrust a clenched fist in the air at the conclusion of her floor event at the Tokyo Games in tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The 18-year-old said before taking to the mat that she incorporated the pose into her routine to highlight “the importance of everyone (being) treated with respect and dignity”.
“Because we’re all the same,” she said, “and we’re all beautiful and amazing.”
While political protests are banned at Tokyo under International Olympic Committee rules, Miss Alvarado is unlikely to be punished for her tribute because the move was part of her routine, the Associated Press reported.
Miss Alvarado won’t get the chance to repeat the move: her score of 12.166 on the floor saw her finish in 66th place in qualifying.
US superstar Simone Biles qualified in first place for the floor final, which will be held on August 2.
Miss Alvarado said she became inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement spread that around the world after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis last summer.
“I feel like if you do something that brings everyone together, you know, and you see that here, like ‘Yes, you’re one of mine, you understand things,’ the importance of everyone treated with respect and dignity and everyone having the same rights because we’re all the same and we’re all beautiful and amazing,” Miss Alvarado told the podcast GymCastic on Friday before her event.
Under IOC rules, “no form of advertising or other publicity shall be allowed” in Olympic sites unless there are specific exceptions given by its executive board.
The guidelines prohibit “demonstration or political, religious, or racial propaganda in Olympic venues”.
In response to reports that BLM protests had been specifically banned from the Games, Reuters reported: “It is also not a new rule nor was it created in response to Black Lives Matter protests.”
US hammer thrower Gwen Berry was sanctioned in 2019 for raising a fist at the 2019 Pan American Games. She staged a similar protest at an Olympic qualifying event and has said she will use these Olympics as a platform to spread her message of equality.
“I just want everyone to understand that, as athletes, we can use our voice, we should use our voices to bring awareness to these issues that impact our communities," Ms Berry has previously said.
"Because our communities are the communities that are under attack."
Athletes from a wide range of sports, including NFL, international soccer and basketball, have taken a knee prior to matches in solidarity with the BLM movement.
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