© 2024 Blue Ridge Public Radio
Blue Ridge Mountains banner background
Your source for information and inspiration in Western North Carolina.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Wrestler Is 1st Black U.S. Woman To Win Gold After Years-Long Journey And 'Freak Out'


Another day at the Olympics, another bit of history. Tamyra Mensah-Stock became just the second woman to win gold in wrestling for the U.S. and the first Black woman to ever win gold in the sport. And while it took years of training and preparation for the Texas native to reach this moment, Mensah-Stock said she'd been in disbelief on Tuesday heading into the finals of the 68 kilogram freestyle event.


TAMYRA MENSAH-STOCK: I honestly don't even freaking know how I did it. Like, I just kept telling my coaches, I'm nervous. I'm scared. I'm nervous. I'm freaking out here. Help me. I'm freaking out (laughter). And yeah, that's the insight. (Laughter) It wasn't pretty.


Well, it was more than a pretty sight as she draped herself in the U.S. flag after beating a competitor from Nigeria in the gold medal match. Even though Mensah-Stock was the top seed in her weight category, this was her first Olympics. She won the Olympic team trials ahead of the Rio Games in 2016, but could not compete. The U.S. had failed to qualify for a spot in her weight class. So this moment, it was five years in the making.

SHAPIRO: The 28-year-old said she wants to inspire Black girls to wrestle. Her inspiration to compete came from her twin sister.


MENSAH-STOCK: Because she had got injured our first year wrestling. And then she came back after two years of not wrestling, and she became the second state champion at our entire school. And I was the first. So just looking at a family member, I was like, this girl is just so strong, so powerful and just a comeback kid. And she was inspiring to me.

KELLY: Well, in addition to the glory, U.S. gold medal winners get a $37,500 bonus. So what is Mensah-Stock going to do with that money?


MENSAH-STOCK: I wanted to give my mom $30,000 so she can get a food truck because, like, it's her dream. And I told her five years ago, all right, mommy. I'll get you your food truck, but you got to be responsible. She's like, yeah, thank you, baby. So my mom's getting her food truck. She's going to be - she's going to have her little cooking business. She can cook really, really, really well.

SHAPIRO: And what does mom cook?


MENSAH-STOCK: Barbecue - I don't eat it 'cause I'm a pescatarian now (laughter).

KELLY: Yeah, OK. We here at ALL THINGS CONSIDERED are all for pescatarians, but Tamyra Mensah-Stock, you have just won an Olympic wrestling gold medal. I'm going to say, if you want mom's barbecue, you have earned it.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOSHIO MATSUURA GROUP'S "L.M. II") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.
Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
Ashley Brown is a senior editor for All Things Considered.