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Tamyra Mensah-Stock becomes the first U.S. Black woman to win an Olympic wrestling gold

"I knew I could do it," Mensah-Stock said of her victory. "I knew it would be hard. I prayed I could do it. In my wildest dreams I knew."

Tamyra Mensah-Stock becomes the first U.S. Black woman to win an Olympic wrestling gold
Cover Image Source: Tamyra Mariama Mensah-Stock of Team United States on day eleven of the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games at Makuhari Messe Hall on August 03, 2021, in Chiba, Japan. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

U.S. wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock and Nigeria's Blessing Oborududu both knew that no matter how the women's 68-kilogram freestyle final went on Tuesday night, history would be made. According to The New York Times, no Black woman had won gold since women's wrestling was added to the Summer Olympics in 2004, and Mensah-Stock and Oborududu were in a unique position to change that. "Oooooh, it was awesome," Mensah-Stock—a Texas native whose father came to the United States from Ghana at 30—said afterward. "Oh my gosh, look at us representing. 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," the 28-year-old added. In the end, it was Mensah-Stock who dominated on the mat, defeating 32-year-old Oborududu by a score of 4-1 to become the second woman—and the first Black woman—to win an Olympic wrestling gold for the United States. Meanwhile, by winning silver, Oborududu became the first Nigerian athlete to win an Olympic medal in wrestling.



 

 

When asked about her history-making win after the match, Mensah-Stock said: "Young women are going to see themselves in a number of ways. And they're going to look up there and go: 'I can do that. I can see myself.'" Signaling towards her head, she added: "Look at this natural hair. Come on, man! I made sure I brought my puffballs out so they could know that you can do it, too." According to Team USA, Mensah-Stock also remembered her father, who was killed in a car crash coming home from one of her meets in high school. "He would have been the loudest one here," she said. "He would have been so proud."



 

 

"I knew I could do it," Mensah-Stock said of her victory. "I knew it would be hard. I prayed I could do it. In my wildest dreams I knew." Reportedly known as "the friendliest person off the mat and the fiercest on," she started wrestling in 10th grade after she was bullied in track and field. Although she was reluctant to switch to wrestling, she soon found that the sport unlocked the full extent of athletic ability and also helped her develop confidence. She hopes that her success will help other young women, especially those who feel as she once did, see that "you can be silly, you can have fun, and you can be strong, you can be tough and you can be a wrestler."



 

 

Although she is the first Black woman to win Olympic gold in wrestling, Mensah-Stock made sure to remember those Black wrestlers who achieved so much before her, including Toccara Montgomery—who finished seventh in the 2004 Games—and Randi Miller—who won a bronze medal in the 63-kilogram weight class in 2008. "They paved the way for me, and I was like, 'I know you guys could have done it, so I'm going out there and I'm going to accomplish this,'" she said.



 

 

Immediately after she was declared the winner, Mensah-Stock formed a heart sign with her hands and showed it to both sides of the small crowd in the Makuhari Messe Hall outside Tokyo. This gesture, she later said, was a tribute to her loved ones. Her late father, whose death nearly led her to quit wrestling; her uncle, a former professional boxer who died of cancer; her grandfather who also died of cancer; and a late friend who was also a wrestler, were all on her mind. "I'm feeling very happy and I keep trying not to cry, but it keeps happening," Mensah-Stock said. "I just want to go into a dark room and cry, but I'm crying from joy."

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