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Tamyra Mensah-Stock Becomes First Black Woman to Win a Wrestling Gold

Tamyra Mensah-Stock Becomes First Black Woman to Win a Wrestling Gold
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Tamyra Mensah-Stock Becomes First Black Woman to Win a Wrestling Gold

Tamyra Mensah-Stock Becomes First Black Woman to Win a Wrestling Gold

CHIBA, Japan – Anyway, Tuesday night Tamyra Mensah-Stock knew there would be a premiere.

Since women’s wrestling was added to the Summer Olympics in 2004, a black woman had never won first prize. But in the light heavyweight gold medal match at Makuhari Messe Hall, Mensah-Stock, a Texas native whose father came from Ghana to the United States at age 30, faced Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu.

“Oooooh, that was awesome,” Mensah-Stock said with his usual zeal and seriousness.

“Oh my God, watch us represent it,” she added later. “And I’m like if one of us wins, we make history. You make history, I make history, we make history. It’s fantastic. It meant a lot. I am so proud of Blessing. I looked at her, ‘Dang, she’s killing him.’ But I can kill him too.

And Mensah-Stock, 28, certainly did, dominating her opponents throughout the Tokyo Games and beating 32-year-old Oborududu by a score of 4-1 to become the second American to win a gold medal. wrestling after Helen Maroulis in 2016.

Asked about the achievement after the match, she said: “Young women are going to see each other in many ways. And they’re going to look up there and say, ‘I can do this. I can see myself.

Then Mensah-Stock nodded towards his head, saying, “Look at that natural hair. Come on man! I made sure to take out my puffballs so they know you can do that too.

To serve as a symbol to others has long been in the spirit of Mensah-Stock. Back home in Katy, Texas, she began wrestling in grade 10 after being bullied in track and field, her favorite sport. She reluctantly switched to wrestling at the behest of her twin sister, a wrestler, but soon found that the sport not only unlocked her athletic abilities, but also helped her build her self-confidence.

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Mensah-Stock said she wanted other young women, maybe the ones who felt like she once was, to see that “you can be stupid, you can have fun and you can be strong, you can be dumb. be tough and you can be a wrestler. “

In his first year of wrestling, Mensah-Stock finished second in the State Championships, but knew more was to come. She told a friend that they would one day be Olympians. In 2016, she made it to the Rio Games, but only as a training partner for her teammates when she failed to secure a place in the competition.

“From the start I knew I could make it here,” she said.

Although a black woman has never won Olympic gold in wrestling before, Mensah-Stock cited the names of black wrestlers who had accomplished so much before her. Among them: Toccara Montgomery, who finished seventh at the 2004 Games, and Randi Miller, who won a bronze medal in the 63 kilogram category in 2008.

“They paved the way for me, and I was like, ‘I know you could have done it, so I’m going out there and I’m going to accomplish this,'” Mensah-Stock said.

Before the gold medal game, Mensah-Stock had difficulty sleeping due to nervousness. She said her trainer, Izzy Izboinikov, made sure she ate something. Watching other wrestlers from the United States compete earlier on Tuesday made his anxiety worse.

“It wasn’t pretty,” she said.

But after time ran out and Mensah-Stock won, she formed a heart sign with her hands and showed it on both sides of the arena. The TV show showed his family, who was watching from the United States, making the same gesture in response. From the stands, her training partner Maya Nelson clapped and screamed with so much glee that her mask couldn’t stay in place.

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The heart sign, she later said, was a tribute to those close to her: her father died in a car crash after leaving one of her high school tournaments, a tragedy that almost brought her to stop the fight; his uncle, a former professional boxer, who died of cancer; her grandfather who also died of cancer; a deceased friend who was also a wrestler; her husband, mother, aunt, sister and the whole country.

“I try to send love to everyone,” she said.

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