Gwen Berry
USATF day 3 2018 (28107017887).jpg
Berry in 2018
Personal information
NationalityAmerican
Born (1989-06-29) June 29, 1989 (age 33)
St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.
Height5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight88 kg (194 lb)
Sport
Country United States
SportTrack and field
Event(s)Hammer throw
College teamSouthern Illinois University Carbondale
ClubNYAC & NIKE
Turned pro2011

Gwendolyn Denise Berry (born June 29, 1989) is an American track and field athlete who specializes in the hammer throw. Her mark of 77.78 m (255 ft 2 in) on June 8, 2018, ranks her #7 on the all time list. She also holds the world record in the weight throw with a mark of 25.60 m (83 ft 11+34 in) set in March 2017.[1] She is a three-time national champion in the weight throw at the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. She was the gold medalist in the hammer at the 2014 Pan American Sports Festival. She is also the 2019 Pan American Games Champion.

Career

Early life and college

Gwen Berry was born to Michael Berry and Laura Hayes, she grew up in Florissant, Missouri and attended McCluer High School.[2] While there she was a basketball player but started taking part in track in the off-season and competed in the triple jump. She began studying for a degree in psychology and criminal justice at Southern Illinois University Carbondale in 2007. She took up throwing events for the Southern Illinois Salukis collegiate team and came fourth in the hammer throw at the 2008 USA Junior Championships.[3]

Her throwing improved the following year and she was the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) champion in the weight throw and shot put and reached eleventh in the former event at the NCAA Indoor Championships. In 2010, she earned NCAA All-American honours in the weight throw and shot put indoors and the hammer throw outdoors (taking fourth at the 2010 NCAA Outdoors).[3] That season she set bests of 16.30 m (53 ft 5+12 in) for the shot put, 20.48 m (67 ft 2+14 in) for the weight throw and 62.55 m (205 ft 2+12 in) for the hammer throw.[4]

Berry's international debut for the United States came at the 2010 NACAC Under-23 Championships in Athletics. She took the hammer bronze, behind Heather Steacy and fellow Salukis athlete Jeneva McCall.[5]

In her last season at Southern Illinois, Berry reached new peaks. A shot put best of 16.99 m (55 ft 8+34 in) brought her the MVC outdoor title and she later placed twelfth at the 2011 Championships.[4] In the weight throw she 22.71 m (74 ft 6 in) in Bloomington, Indiana, which placed her second in the world for the event that year behind Amber Campbell.[6] She entered as favourite for the weight throw at the NCAA Indoor Championships, but performed poorly, ending in tenth, and commented that she was psychologically affected by being one of the smaller athletes there. Moving to the outdoor season, she threw a personal record to win the hammer at the Drake Relays.[7] Her mark of 70.52 m (231 ft 4+14 in) ranked her in the world's top 25 athletes for the year. Nerves again affected her at the 2012 NCAA Outdoor Championships, as she failed to reach the final despite being the country's third best thrower that year, behind Jessica Cosby and Amber Campbell.[8]

Professional

After graduation, Berry continued competing with a focus on weight throw in the indoor season and hammer throw in the outdoor season. At the 2011 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships she ranked sixth. In the 2012 season she came third in the weight throw at the 2012 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships. A new hammer best of 71.95 m (236 ft 12 in) came in April and she entered the 2012 United States Olympic Trials as the number two ranked American woman after Jessica Cosby.[4][9] She did not live up to her previous performance, however, and ended in seventh with a mark of 68.84 m (225 ft 10 in). Despite the failure, she was approached by New York Athletic Club, who encouraged her to join them and remain in the sport.[2]

Berry secured her first national title at the 2013 USA Indoors, launching the weight throw 24.70 m (81 ft 14 in) to beat out a field including Amber Campbell and Jeneva McCall.[10] She achieved a best of 73.81 m (242 ft 1+34 in) for the hammer that year, but again did not perform well at the 2013 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, placing ninth.[4] She defended her weight throw national title in 2014.[11] The 2014 season marked her first foray into the international professional circuit and she ranked eighth on the 2014 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge.[12] She was seventh at the 2014 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, but was still selected for the Pan American Sports Festival. There, she came away with a gold medal in a season's best of 72.04 m (236 ft 4 in) and beat three-time world champion Yipsi Moreno of Cuba, whose career was an inspiration for Berry.[2] She enjoyed her highest world ranking that season, placing 17th overall.[13]

Berry skipped the 2015 indoor season and again competed on the circuit, placing tenth in the 2015 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge final standings (second only to Amanda Bingson among Americans).[14] Berry cleared seventy metres for the first time nationally at the 2015 USA Outdoor Track and Field Championships, but strong performances by Campbell, DeAnna Price and Bingson left her in fifth place overall.[15]

Berry placed second in hammer throw behind Team USA teammates Amber Campbell, ahead of DeAnna Price at 2016 Olympic Trials and represented the United States at 2016 Summer Olympics. She placed 14th.

At the 2020 Olympic Trials, Berry placed third in the hammer throw behind DeAnna Price and Brooke Anderson and represented the United States at the 2020 Summer Olympics, where she qualified for the final and finished 11th.

American record

At the start of 2016, Berry was dominant in the weight throw, winning four straight meetings with throws over 24 meters, including a third career win at the 2016 USA Indoor Track and Field Championships, and ranking number one globally for the season. Her hammer throw was also much improved with consistent throws beyond seventy meters.[4] A best of 75.11 m (246 ft 5 in) in Memphis was shortly followed by a national record and North American record throw of 76.31 m (250 ft 4+14 in) at the Tucson Elite Classic.[16] However, performances from March to June 2016 were annulled due to violation of anti-doping procedues.[17]

Support for U.S. national anthem kneeling protests

Main article: U.S. national anthem kneeling protests

During the award ceremony in the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru. Berry was awarded the gold medal for the hammer throw, she raised her fist at the end of the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" in protest against “injustice” in America "and a president who's making it worse."[18][19] Berry's protests led the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee to issue new guidelines in order to allow peaceful expressions of protest "in support of racial and social justice for all human beings."[20] Berry has stated: "I'm here to represent those who died [due] to this systemic racism."[21][22][23]

The International Olympic Committee reprimanded Berry and placed her on probation for 12 months, prohibiting her from any form of protest for a year. Her act cost her sponsorships, and she estimated that she lost $50,000.[24]

In June 2021, during the U.S. Olympic track and field trials for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, Berry turned away from the U.S. flag during the playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner".[25] She said of the national anthem's timing that "I feel like it was a set-up".[25] According to a spokesperson for USA Track and Field who stated, "The national anthem is played every day according to a previously published schedule", the anthem was scheduled to be played at 5:20 p.m., though on this occasion the music started at 5:25 p.m.[26] Berry claims an official told her the anthem would play prior to her arrival on the podium.[27] Berry has accused critics of her protest of favoring "patriotism over basic morality."[28]

Personal records

Outdoor
Indoor

International competitions

Year Competition Venue Position Event Notes
2010 NACAC U23 Championships Miramar, United States 3rd Hammer throw 62.55 m
2014 Pan American Sports Festival Mexico City, Mexico 1st Hammer throw 72.04 m
2016 Olympic Games Rio de Janeiro, Brazil 14th (q) Hammer throw 69.90 m
2017 World Championships London, United Kingdom 14th (q) Hammer throw 69.12 m
2019 Pan American Games Lima, Peru 1st Hammer throw 74.62 m
World Championships Doha, Qatar 10th (q) Hammer throw 71.72 m1
2021 Olympic Games Tokyo, Japan 11th Hammer throw 71.35 m

1No mark in the final

National titles

See also

References

  1. ^ World Indoor All-Time List - Women Archived February 9, 2018, at the Wayback Machine. Track & Field News. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c Gwen Berry: Road to Success by E. Brown. E. Brown/Youtube. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Gwen Berry Archived September 20, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. SIU Salukis. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  4. ^ a b c d e Gwen Berry. Tilastopaja. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  5. ^ Berry, McCall earn top-three finishes at NACAC Under 23 Track & Field Championships[permanent dead link]. SIU Salukia (July 11, 2010). Retrieved on 2016-05-29.
  6. ^ Rorick, Jim (2011). 2011 World Indoor List - Women. Track & Field News. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  7. ^ Southern Illinois' Gwen Berry after winning the womens hammer at the 2011 Drake Relays. Missouri TrackFanatic/Youtube. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  8. ^ Rorick, Jim (2012). 2011 World Absolute List - Women Archived December 8, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. Track & Field News. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  9. ^ Rorick, Jim (2013). 2012 World Absolute List - Women Archived June 23, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Track & Field News. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  10. ^ Former Saluki Gwen Berry wins USA Indoor Championship weight throw title. SIU Salukis (March 9, 2013). Retrieved on 2016-05-29.
  11. ^ USA Indoor Track & Field Champions Women's 20-lb. Weight Throw. USATF. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  12. ^ 2014 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge Final Standings Women. IAAF. Retrieved on May 22, 2016.
  13. ^ Rorick, Jim (2015). 2014 World Absolute List - Women Archived September 17, 2016, at the Wayback Machine. Track & Field News. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  14. ^ 2015 IAAF Hammer Throw Challenge Final Standings Women. IAAF. Retrieved on May 22, 2016.
  15. ^ USATF Championships - 6/25/2015 to 6/28/2015 Hayward Field, Eugene, Ore. Results Archived May 28, 2019, at the Wayback Machine. USATF. Retrieved on May 29, 2016.
  16. ^ Battaglia, Joe (May 22, 2016). Gwen Berry Sets American Record in Hammer Throw. FloTrack. Retrieved on 2016-05-29.
  17. ^ Berry Accepts Sanction for Rule Violation
  18. ^ Armour, Nancy (August 10, 2019). "Opinion: US fencer, hammer thrower show principles with podium protests at Pan American Games". USA Today. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  19. ^ Video on YouTube
  20. ^ West, Jenna (December 10, 2020). "USOPC Will Not Sanction Athletes for Peaceful Social Justice Protests at Olympics". SI.com. Sports Illustrated. Retrieved June 28, 2021.
  21. ^ "Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry responds to backlash after she turns away from U.S. flag during national anthem". www.cbsnews.com. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  22. ^ "Gwen Berry turns away from flag at U.S. track and field trials: 'I feel like it was a setup'". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  23. ^ "Hammer thrower Berry turns away from U.S. flag during anthem". Reuters. June 27, 2021. Retrieved June 30, 2021.
  24. ^ Heroux, Devin (June 1, 2020). "Olympian Gwen Berry knows the athlete's voice isn't always welcomed". CBC.ca. Retrieved September 7, 2020.
  25. ^ a b Pells, Eddie (June 27, 2021). "Hammer thrower Gwen Berry turns away from U.S. flag during anthem". CBC. Retrieved June 29, 2021.
  26. ^ "Berry turns from flag, felt anthem timing 'a setup'". ESPN.com. June 27, 2021. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  27. ^ Lampen, Claire (June 30, 2021). "Silence Isn't Neutral". The Cut. Retrieved July 1, 2021.
  28. ^ Brito, Christopher (June 28, 2021). "Olympic hammer thrower Gwen Berry responds to backlash after she turns away from U.S. flag during national anthem". CBS News. Retrieved June 29, 2021.