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By Dominic Smithers
A US hammer thrower turned her back while the national anthem was being played at the Olympic trials.
Gwen Berry had collected her bronze medal and refused to face the flag while the anthem was being played, saying it was 'disrespectful'.
Towards the end of the anthem, the 31-year-old held up a black t-shirt, which had the slogan 'Activist Athlete' written across the front.
Speaking about the incident, Berry said: "I feel like it was a set-up, and they did it on purpose. I was p****d, to be honest.
"They had enough opportunities to play the national anthem before we got up there. I was thinking about what I should do.
"Eventually, I stayed there and I swayed, I put my shirt over my head. It was real disrespectful.
"It really wasn't a message. I didn't really want to be up there. Like I said, it was a set-up. I was hot, I was ready to take my pictures and get into some shade."
She added: "They said they were going to play it before we walked out, then they played it when we were out there.
"But I don't really want to talk about the anthem because that's not important. The anthem doesn't speak for me. It never has."
According to USA Track and Field, the anthem was played every day at a scheduled time.
In a statement by the body, spokeswoman Susan Hazzard said: "We didn't wait until the athletes were on the podium for the hammer throw awards. We're thrilled with the women's hammer throw team that selected themselves for the Games."
Berry had previously been suspended for 12 months for having raised her fist at the 2019 Pan American Games.
The stance was reversed by the US Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) back in March, allowing competing athletes to protest while on the medal podium.
Last June, Berry received an apology from USOPC officials over a 40-minute phone call for sanctioning her over her 2019 Pan American Games protest.
USOPC CEO Sarah Hirshland said afterwards: "I am grateful to Gwen for her time and her honesty last night.
"I heard her. I apologized for how my decisions made her feel and also did my best to explain why I made them.
"Gwen has a powerful voice in this national conversation, and I am sure that together we can use the platform of Olympic and Paralympic sport to address and fight against systematic inequality and racism in our country."
Berry says she plans on continuing to use her profile and position to amplify the demand for racial equality and justice.
She said: "My purpose and my mission is bigger than sports.
"I'm here to represent those... who died due to systemic racism. That's the important part. That's why I'm going. That's why I'm here today."
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