Tamyra Mensah-Stock couldn’t stop crying tears of joy after winning gold in the women’s 68kg Olympic final on Tuesday night in Japan. The Katy, Texas, native defeated Nigerian Blessing Oborududu 4-1.
Mensah-Stock is the first Black woman to win a gold medal in wrestling for the United States. She joins Helen Maroulis as the only other U.S. wrestler to earn gold in the short history of women’s Olympic wrestling, which debuted in 2004. Mensah-Stock called winning an Olympic gold medal the hardest thing she’s ever done in her life.
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“It feels like it was meant to be. All this time, it just feels right. It would have felt wrong if I didn’t win gold. I had to fight for it and boy did I fight,” she said after her win. Five years ago, she won the U.S Olympic Trials but failed to earn a quota spot at the 68k/149 lbs. weight class in three attempts ahead of the 2016 Rio Games.
“It’s frustrating knowing that you are capable of doing something. It has been pushed back again, again and again,” she said reflecting on 2016 after qualifying for the Tokyo Games.
These frustrations were front of mind as Mensah-Stock reflected on her journey after the match. Her excitement was palpable as she jumped and paced throughout her interview.
“I’m very happy and I keep trying not to cry but it keeps happening. I just wanna go into a dark room and just cry,” she said before throwing her head up and giving in to her emotions.
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“But cry from joy,” Mensah-Stock clarified. Her tears turned to unbridled joy when she was reminded she is one of two American women to capture Olympic gold in wrestling. Her message to other girls and women was being a woman is not a barrier to accomplishing big goals.
“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 tough and be a wrestler. I wanted to be that light. That was one of the things that 100% motivates me.”
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During the Olympics, you can also catch up on all of the major storylines in women’s sports by watching “On Her Turf @ The Olympics,” a 30-minute show that will stream for free on Peacock. Hosted by Lindsay Czarniak, MJ Acosta-Ruiz, and Lolo Jones, the show kicks off on Saturday, July 24, and will stream every day of the Games (Monday-Saturday at 7pm ET and Sundays at 6pm ET).