Tamyra Mensah-Stock becomes the first Black U.S. Woman Olympian to win a gold medal in wrestling
She is also just the second woman from the U.S. to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling.
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Tamyra Mensah-Stock won gold in the women’s freestyle 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final on Tuesday, making history as the first U.S. Black woman to do it.
She defeated Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria 4-1, to become the first Black woman and just second woman overall to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling for the United States (after Helen Maroulis in 2016).
“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,’” the 28-year-old Mensah-Stock told The New York Times after her win.
Mensah-Stock, who was entering her first Olympics, began wrestling at the age of 15 at the behest of her twin sister Tarkyia.
Born in Chicago, the two grew up in Katy, Texas and attended Morton Ranch High School, in northwest Houston. While originally a track athlete, sprinter and jumper, Mensah-Stock eventually took up the sport of wrestling.
“When I first started wrestling, I wanted to be an emblem, a light to younger women and show them that you can be silly, you can have fun and you can be strong,” Mensah-Stock told USA Today.
Almost immediately, she felt she could one day become an Olympic medalist.
However, she nearly quit the sport after her father passed away in a car accident on his way home after watching one of her high school wrestling matches.
Mensah-Stock called her father “her biggest fan,” and blamed wrestling for his untimely death.
However, she kept fighting and now has an Olympic gold medal with historical significance behind it.
After her gold medal win, she took the opportunity to talk about her father.
"He would have been the loudest one here," Mensah-Stock said of her father. "He would have been so proud."
Oborududu made history in her own right, as well, becoming the first Nigerian to win an Olympic medal in wrestling with the silver.
Mensah-Stock’s father was originally from Ghana — spending the first 30 years of his life in the west African nation before coming to the United States.
The fact that she faced an opponent who shared her Black West African heritage in the Olympic final added an additional layer of pride to the bout.
“I’m like, ’Oh my gosh, look at us representing,” Mensah-Stock told the Associated Press. “It’s so freaking awesome. You’re making history, I’m making history. We’re making history. So it meant a lot.”
Mensah-Stock previously attended the 2016 Summer Olympics as a practice partner after failing to secure a spot in the competition.
Five years later, she is an Olympic gold medalist.