One event we’ll be watching most closely when the Tokyo Olympics begin this week will be the women’s shot put, as Charleston’s own Raven Saunders goes for the gold.
But regardless of what happens, the city already has found a way to recognize a special athlete who learned her sport while watching videos in the Burke High School parking lot and who kept at it until she became one of the world’s best.
The track just a few shot puts away from that high school parking lot soon could be named the “Raven Saunders Track at Stoney Field”; City Council was widely expected to agree to the new name Tuesday. This honor was in the works even before Ms. Saunders gave her hometown a special shoutout after resetting her own personal best last month with a 65-foot, 6-inch toss.
“She’s a remarkable person, and this is completely fitting,” Councilman Jason Sakran said recently. Ms. Saunders told reporter Jeff Hartsell: “It means a lot to be one of the few African Americans in the city to have something named after them, and it’s crazy to look back at the journey and where I was 10 years ago. And now the fact that the new track might have my name on it, it’s just a blessing and we’re so thankful to the city for it.”
Stoney Field, mostly known as the home of Burke High’s football team, is getting a $4.7 million facelift, including a new artificial turf field, scoreboard and sound system and a synthetic 400-meter track. The work, a joint effort between the city and the Charleston County School District, should be done soon.
We have urged against naming public roads or facilities to honor those still alive, and there have been regrettable incidents that have proven us right in that regard. But the people we’re aware of who have gone on to embarrass our state have all been political figures. We hope that the uniquely inspirational and powerful story of Ms. Saunders will stand the test of time.
And it’s important to note the story is far from over. We hope the city’s gesture gives Ms. Saunders more wind at her back as she returns to one of the biggest stages in sports. A four-time NCAA champion, she finished fifth at the 2016 Olympics in Brazil but looks to do even better this time.
It’s a fickle sport: Ms. Saunders set an Olympic trials record last month, but the new mark stood for only minutes before her friend Jessica Ramsey sent her shot about 6 inches farther. Ms. Saunders’ reaction only underscored her big heart and admirable attitude: “Honestly, if I could have lost to anybody, I’m happy it was Jessica,” Ms. Saunders told reporters. “I’m happy for her, happy for myself. We were pumping each other up. It was great to make that magic again.”
We hope more magic happens yet again in Tokyo, with Ms. Saunders making her throw go a very, very long way.
Regardless of what happens, we can all take pride in how she already has come a very, very long way.