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

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

by Sue Jones
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On Tuesday, Team USA’s Tamyra Mensah-Stock made Olympic history when her first-place finish in wrestling made her the first Black woman to win gold in the sport, according to NPR.

She bested Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 in the women’s 68-kg freestyle division. To win in wrestling, athletes must hold both their opponent’s shoulders down on the mat for one second; this is called a fall or pin. In freestyle wrestling, athletes can use any part of the body to unbalance their opponent, for example through leg attacks or throws (in Greco-Roman wrestling, only the upper body and arms are used). If a fall or pin doesn’t happen during the bout, a point system is used to determine the winner.

Mensah-Stock is only the second female wrestler from Team USA to win gold in the sport since it was added to the Summer Games in 2004. Helen Maroulis earned gold in 2016 in the 53-kg class. It’s the second wrestling medal in Tokyo for Team USA women, following Adeline Gray’s silver-medal performance in the 76-kg class.

According to the Associated Press, Mensah-Stock said she was proud to wrestle Oborududu, a Black African woman, for the final. (Oborududu’s performance in the match gave her a spot in the record books too—her silver medal made her the first Nigerian athlete to medal in wrestling, according to NPR.)

“I’m like, ‘Oh, my gosh, look at us representing,’” Mensah-Stock said to 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.”

After Mensah-Stock won the match, she formed a heart sign with her hands, The New York Times reported. As she explained later, she wanted that to serve as a tribute to friends and family who supported her in the sport but were no longer there to see her clinch victory on its biggest stage—including her father, who was killed in a car crash following one of her high school meets.

The historic nature of Mensah-Stock’s victory has implications that the athlete hopes will reach beyond her individual sport.

“Young women are going to see themselves in a number of ways,” Mensah-Stock said after the event to the Times. “And they’re going to look up there and go: ‘I can do that. I can see myself.’”


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