The Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 run July 24-Aug. 9, 2020, and while they may be nearly 20 months away there’s a lot to learn on your quest to becoming the ultimate fan. Each Tuesday leading up to the Games, TeamUSA.org will present a nugget you should read about – from athletes to watch to storylines to follow to Japanese culture and landmarks – as part of “Tokyo 2020 Tuesday.” Follow along on social media with the hashtag #Tokyo2020Tuesday.
In 2016, Tamyra Mensah-Stock experienced heartbreak at the hand of the sport she loves dearly.
In a rare situation unique only to a handful of sports, Mensah, who later married Jacob Stock, won the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Wrestling but did not go on to compete at the Olympic Games Rio 2016. When she won trials in April of 2016 the U.S. had yet to secure an Olympic quota spot in her weight class, 69 kg., which is what guarantees a country the right to send an athlete to the Games in a specific event. In most cases, quotas are earned before the athlete is selected.
Mensah traveled to competitions in Mongolia and Turkey for her final two attempts to earn the Olympic quota spot and came up short both times. She was the Olympic trials champion and yet her Olympic debut had slipped out of her reach.
But she hasn’t let that get her down.
“I learned that I was more capable than what I was letting myself be, and that’s why now I’ve been learning to leave it on the mat,” Mensah-Stock said. “I’ve learned shouldn’t hold back. I can’t lose focus.”
Mensah-Stock walks with a pep in her step and a smile on her face. Her friendly demeanor does not translate to the mat, though, where she is a force to be reckoned with.
In January, Mensah-Stock won her third Ivan Yarygin Grand Prix title and became the first U.S. wrestler to ever do so. In October, she claimed her first medal on the world championship stage, a bronze at 68 kg.
Tamyra Mensah Stock competes at the Ivan Yariguin Grand Prix on Jan. 28. 2019 in Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
These wins have not satisfied her ultimate desire.
“My goal is to be the Olympic champion, to be the world champion. And, right now, I’m not there yet,” Mensah-Stock said. “I still have things that I have to work on. And that’s what keeps my mindset right and my head on straight.”
Mensah-Stock trains with her teammates at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, as a resident athlete. Every day is filled with multiple intense training sessions followed by lengthy recovery process.
“It’s just grueling, but it’s fun because we keep each other’s spirits up. We’re just encouraging one another.”
While the memories from qualification for the Olympic Games Rio 2016 still sting, she believes that this process has ultimately helped her improve.
“If I’m not my best self, then I end up losing, and I don’t make the Olympic team,” Mensah-Stock explained. “I won Olympic trials, yeah, but I wanted to wrestle in the Olympics. Those were definitely learning experiences for me, and that has been what’s helping me become a better wrestler.”
The thought of competing to qualify for the next Olympic Games in Tokyo doesn’t bring Mensah-Stock any anxiety, just pure excitement.
“Oh my gosh. I’m sweating right now just thinking about Tokyo. But I just have to calm down, don’t get ahead of yourself,” Mensah-Stock said. “We’re getting there.”
Right now, the focus is on 2019 world championships in Kazakhstan. After that, the concentration will be on 2020.
“Everything builds on one another, but for now I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”
So, what would achieving her dreams feel like?
“I hope it feels like any other competition with a bigger name to it. I hope I don’t blow it up,” Mensah-Stock said. “It’s still wrestling, but it will be at the Olympics in 2020!”