Tamyra Mensah-Stock is capturing the hearts of the country for her passionate, exuberant and emotional acceptance of the gold medal for women’s wrestling and her general pride about being an American. She also expressed her Christian faith.
“Of course I surprised myself, it’s just by the grace of God that I’m just able to even move my feet,” Mensah-Stock told an NBC reporter with an American flag proudly draped over her shoulders after her win. “I just leave it in His hands. I prayed that all of the training and practice, the hell that my freaking coaches put me through pays off. Every single time it does. I get better and better. It’s so weird that there is no cap to the limit of what I can do.
“I’m excited to see what I have next,” she said as she gave a little excited bounce.
The reporter then asked about her country and the flag wrapped around her neck.
“Last question for you, that American flag around your shoulders looks pretty good,” the reporter began, as Mensah-Stock wrapped it around herself tighter and gave a huge smile. “How does it feel to represent your country like this?”
She 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 U.S.A.” she exclaimed while pumping her fist up in the air.
As it turns out, Mensah-Stock’s father was originally from Ghana, so she knows what a blessing it is to live in this country. One of her biggest fans, he sadly passed away in a car accident after one of his daughter’s high school wrestling matches. For a time, Mensah-Stock blamed herself for his tragic and early passing and almost quit the sport.
She has said that she gets some of her inclination for competition from her parents, who both had difficult times when they were younger, her father in Ghana and her mother on the streets of Chicago. The spirit of competition and her will to win helps encourage her to keep going despite the challenges.
“I like to showcase what God’s given me, so going out there and inflicting my will, it’s fun,” she said. “Because it makes me surprised what I’m capable of. And when I go out there and I do it, it’s awesome. So I love getting that moment.”
Mensah-Stock was also incredibly complimentary of her competitor, Blessing Oborududu of Nigeria, showing that a grueling competition does not necessarily have to descend into taunts and trash talking.
“Oh my gosh, look at us representing,” she said. “And I’m like, if one of us wins, we’re making history. You’re making history, I’m making history, we’re making history. It’s fantastic. It meant a lot. I’m so proud of Blessing. I was looking at her, ‘Dang, she’s killing it.’ But I can kill it, too.”
If either woman won, they would be the first woman of color to win a gold medal in women’s wresting.
Mensah-Stock’s joy and smile are incredibly infectious. Just watching the interviews it’s clear that she both loves what she does and the country that she gets to represent.
It’s in stark contrast to other American Olympians and competitors, who have used their moment in the spotlight to protest the country that they represent. Like Gwen Barry who refused to face the American flag during the national anthem at the Olympic trials for hammer throwing or Raven Saunders, the shot put silver medalist, who made an “x” with her arms to represent “the intersection of where all people who are oppressed meet.”
This Olympics is gearing up to become one of the least watched of all time. According to The International Business Times, “Last Tuesday, NBC was down in viewers by 58% compared to the Rio Olympics. Meanwhile, the network was down by 53% on Wednesday, followed by a 57% drop on Saturday night.”
Though there are numerous reasons why this could be the case, the distain that some American athletes have for the country they represent has surely contributed to the game’s lack of interest among the general population. The Olympics is often about a nation’s pride and seeing young men and women overcome adversity, but some Americans, including some prominent athletes, seemingly no longer have much love for the country that flew them halfway around the world.
It would be great to see more athletes express Tamyra Mensah-Stock’s zeal not only for her win, family and country, but just everything. It just brings a smile to your face.