American wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock became an Olympic gold medallist on Tuesday after winning the women’s 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final. Infectiously joyful, Mensah-Stock is an openly Christian athlete who chose to honour God during her post-match interview.
“I surprised myself! It’s by the grace of God I’m able even to move my feet,” the American athlete told a reporter while wrapped in her nation’s flag:
I just leave it in his [God’s] hands. And I pray that all the practice, the hell that my freaking coaches put me through, pays off. And every single time it does. And I get better and better. And it’s so weird that there’s no cap to the limit I can do. And I’m excited to see what I have next.
Ranked number one in the world for her category, Mensah-Stock defeated Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 to take home the top medal, after blitzing through prior rounds. She won 10-0 in her first match, 10-0 in the quarterfinals, and 10-4 in the semi-final against opponents from Japan, China and Ukraine respectively.
A short video of her interview was shared on Twitter Tuesday and has since had over seven million views. The 28 year old is seen jumping for joy in the video as she speaks of her faith and her journey towards Olympic glory in Tokyo.
Asked how it felt to represent her country, the reigning World champion responded, “It feels amazing. I love representing the U.S. I freaking love living there. I love it. And I’m so happy I get to represent USA!” Mensah-Stock is the second American woman to win gold in her sport, and the first black woman from the U.S. to take home Olympic gold for wrestling.
Mensah Stock’s exuberance has not gone unnoticed by the media. Before the finals match, The Guardian asked in a headline, Is US wrestler Tamyra Mensah-Stock the most upbeat athlete at Tokyo 2020?
The wrestler’s radiant gratitude is a welcome contrast at an Olympics meet that has seen other Americans voice disapproval of their nation. Hammer throw champion Gwen Berry, shot putter Raven Saunders and the entire U.S. women’s soccer team have staged various protests this month to highlight racism in America.
Tamyra Mensah-Stock’s mother grew up in Chicago, but her dad was a native born Ghanian who migrated to the U.S. at age 30. Tragically, he was killed in a car accident on the way home from watching Mensah-Stock and her sister compete in a high school wrestling tournament. “He would’ve been the loudest one here,” the gold medalist said on the day of the final. “He would be so proud. He would be so happy.”
The wrestling champ also spoke to reporters about her mother, to whom she plans to donate most of her $37,500 prize money. “I wanted to give my mom $30,000 so she can get a food truck. It’s her dream,” Mensah-Stock said. “My mom’s getting her food truck! She’s going to have a little cooking business. She can cook really, really, really well – barbecue!”
Encouraged by her sister, Mensah-Stock began wrestling in grade 10 after facing bullying from some of her track and field teammates. She quickly reached the state finals and went on to win two national titles while attending Wayland Baptist, a small Christian university in her native Texas. Speaking with USA Today, she shared what inspired her to take up the sport:
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. You can be tough, you can be a wrestler and you don’t have to be like this,” — growl — “I’m gonna be mean to you.
Mensah-Stock’s defeated foe Blessing Oborududu also made history for her nation. A three-time Olympian and the No. 2 seed, Oborududu became the first Nigerian — male or female — to win an Olympic medal for wrestling.
This article was first published at the Daily Declaration.