CHIBA, Japan — As Tamyra Mensah-Stock celebrated winning her Olympic gold medal, she hoped her victory would encourage Black girls in the United States to consider wrestling.
When she defeated Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududu 4-1 in the women’s 68-kilogram freestyle wrestling final on Tuesday, she became the first American Black woman to win Olympic gold in wrestling and the second American woman overall.
“These young women are going to see themselves in a number of ways and they’re going to look up there and go, I can do that,” she said. “I can see myself.”
Helen Maroulis was the first American woman to earn Olympic gold in the sport when she upset Japan’s Saori Yoshida to win the 53 kg class in 2016.
Black women have had their moments in U.S. women’s wrestling. Toccara Montgomery won gold at the Pan-Am Games in 2003, Iris Smith won a world title in 2005 and Randi Miller earned bronze at the 2008 Olympics.
“They paved the way for me,” Mensah-Stock said.
Oborududu made history also as the first Nigerian — male or female — to earn a wrestling medal at the Olympics.
“After wrestling to get into the final yesterday, I was having a lot of messages, a lot of calls,” Oborududu said. “I locked down my phone, because I don’t want to receive any calls, or anything that was really disturbing me. I switched off my phone so I was not in any kind of pressure. I know that I’ve created the record for my country.”
Mensah-Stock was proud of the fact that she wrestled a Black African woman for the gold medal. Mensah-Stock’s father is from Ghana, a nation in West Africa.
“I’m like, ’Oh my gosh, look at us representing,” Mensah-Stock said. “It’s so freaking awesome. You’re making history, I’m making history. We’re making history. So it meant a lot.”
Mensah-Stock, the No. 1 seed, blitzed through a formidable field. She defeated Japan’s Sara Dosho — a 2016 Olympic gold medalist — 10-0 in the first round.
She beat China’s Feng Zhao 10-0 in the quarterfinals, then beat Ukraine’s Alla Cherkasova — a former world champion — 10-4 in the semifinal.
She finished the dominant run by defeating Oborududu, the No. 2 seed and a three-time Olympian, in the final.
“Well, you’ve got to beat the best to know that you’re the best,” Mensah-Stock said. “And that’s what I keep telling myself. It doesn’t matter the draw. You go out there and you beat whoever is in front of you because that’s how you tell somebody that you were the best. I’m the bad draw.”