On August 3, American wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock created history by winning gold in the women’s 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She has become the first black woman in the history of the United States to bring home an Olympic gold medal in wrestling. She is also the second female gold medalist from the country after Helen Maroulis clinched the top spot in 2016.
28-year-old Mensah-Stock consistently dominated all opponents she faced during her Olympic stint. Tamyra started her Tokyo campaign against Japan’s Sara Dosho who had won gold in the 2016 Rio Olympics and was world champion in 2017. Next, she was pitted against Feng Zhou from China. Despite their past glories, both world-class wrestlers failed to score a single point against the American.
Tamyra’s semi-final encounter was with Alla Cherkasova from Ukraine. Although she struggled to find her ground in the beginning, Tamyra eventually beat the Ukrainian 10-4 to advance to the final. And in the finals, the number one seeded Mensah-Stock defeated the number two seeded Blessing Oborududu from Nigeria 4-1. Meanwhile, Blessing became the first Nigerian to win an Olympic medal in wrestling.
“Oooooh, it was awesome,” Mensah-Stock said to The New York Times after the win. “Oh my gosh, look at us representing.” Tamyra later added, “And I’m like, if one of us wins, we’re making history. You’re making history, I’m making history, we’re making history. It’s fantastic. It meant a lot. I’m so proud of Blessing. I was looking at her, ‘Dang, she’s killing it.’ But I can kill it, too.”
Despite restrictions from the International Olympic Committee (IOC), American athletes have protested at the Olympics. However, Mensah-Stock made a heart sign with her hands, smiled at the audience, hugged her coaches, and held up the American flag high above her head.
When she was asked by a reporter how it felt having the American flag draped around her shoulders, the wrestler said that “it feels amazing, I love representing the U.S., I freaking love living there, I love it, and I’m so happy I get to represent U-S-A.” Tamyra was simply grateful for her victory, speaking about her family, her flag, and God.
In her interview with NYT, Tamyra listed out the names of black wrestlers who have made significant achievements in the past. She mentioned Toccara Montgomery who had finished seventh in the 2004 Olympics and Randi Miller who clinched the bronze medal in 2008.
Mensah-Stock also added how she always dreamed about being a symbol of hope for others. Her journey to wrestling was not an easy one. As a child, she had to drop out of track and field events in school because of bullying in tenth grade. Although reluctant at first to pursue wrestling, Tamyra realized that the sport helped boost confidence apart from honing her athletic abilities.
She wants young women who might have felt the way she once did to know that “you can be silly, you can have fun, and you can be strong, you can be tough, and you can be a wrestler.”