Tamyra Mensah-Stock Becomes The First Black Woman To Win A Wrestling Gold Medal


Aug. 5 2021, Published 4:43 a.m. ET

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When Tamyra Mensah-Stock first started wrestling in 10th grade in her hometown of Kate, Texas, she knew that she would someday win an Olympic gold medal. On Tuesday, Aug. 3, she proved her younger self-right and became the first Black woman to win Olympic gold in wrestling.

The 28-year-old went up against Blessing Oborududu, 32, of Nigeria and won 4-1 after seizing points with two takedowns in the first period.

Stock said that this win was not just for herself, but for those who looked like her and had faced similar experiences.

“Young women are going to see themselves in a number of ways,” she said. “They’re going to look up there and go: ‘I can do that. I can see myself.’”

She then pointed toward her head and said, “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.”

Mensah-Stock started wrestling after she was bullied out of track and field, her sport of choice. Her twin sister was already a wrestler, so she decided to give it a shot. In her first year, Mensah-Stock finished second in the state championships.

“From the very beginning, I knew I could get here,” she said.

Although a Black woman hadn’t won an Olympic gold in wrestling before, Mensah-Stock looked up to Black wrestlers who had achieved so much before her. Among them were 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,’” Mensah-Stock said.

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After the clock ran out on Tuesday and Mensah-Stock was the winner, she formed a heart sign with her hands and showed it to both sides of the arena. The television broadcast showed her family, watching from Florida, making the same gesture in response.

The heart sign, she later said, was a tribute to her loved ones: her father who died in a car crash after leaving one of her high school tournaments, a tragedy that nearly led her to quit wrestling; her uncle, a former professional boxer, who died of cancer; her grandfather who also died of cancer; a late friend who was also a wrestler; her husband, her mother, her aunt, her sister, and the entire country.

“I’m trying to send love to everyone,” she said.

Her opponent, Oborududu also made history as the first Nigerian — male or female — to earn a wrestling medal at the Olympics.

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By: Bareerah Zafar

Bareerah Zafar is a Seattle-based journalist who turned her high school reputation of "angry brown girl" into a career in writing. Her work focuses on intersectional stories covering lifestyle, travel, identity and social justice. When she's not writing, you can find her in a cozy corner snuggling with her cats and a book.

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