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Tamyra Mensah-Stock: Why the Olympic Gold-Medal-Winning Wrestler Likes Karaoke

By Peggy Shinn | Aug. 14, 2021, 5:54 p.m. (ET)

Tamyra Mensah-Stock celebrates after winning gold at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 3, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.

 

After Tamyra Mensah-Stock became the first Black woman to win an Olympic gold medal in wrestling, she announced that she would buy her mom a food truck.

The money for the food truck came from the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee’s Operation Gold program, where gold-medal-winning athletes receive a $37,500 payout. USA Wrestling announced that Mensah-Stock will also receive $250,000 from its Living The Dream Medal Fund.

She is one of nine U.S. wrestlers who won a medal at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 and one of three gold medalists. All nine wrestlers will receive a bonus from the Living The Dream Medal Fund. Gold medalists receive $250,000 from the fund, silver medalists $50,000, and bronze medalists $25,000. 

Mensah-Stock endeared herself to Olympic fans after she beat Nigeria’s Blessing Oborududun, 4-1, in women’s freestyle wrestling’s 68-kg finals at the Tokyo Games. She made a heart sign with her hands, then cried “tears of joy.” 

“I’m feeling very happy,” she said in a post-match interview. “And I keep trying not to cry, but it keeps happening.”

Boisterous and emotive, Mensah-Stock also endeared herself to fans by sharing her love of karaoke. She and her husband, Jacob Stock — whom she met in her high school on the wrestling team — love to sing along to their favorite bands. 

After she won the Olympic gold medal — the second U.S. woman to do so after Helen Maroulis at the 2016 Rio Games — Mensah-Stock just wanted to sing along to Carrie Underwood’s Champion, featuring the rapper Ludacris. It begins:

I’ll be the last one standing
Two hands in the air
I’m a champion


Then Ludacris raps:

Born champion
Luda!
The ‘C’ is for the courage I possess through the drama
H is for the hurt but it’s all for the honor
A is for my attitude working through the patience
Money comes and goes, so the M is for motivation
Gotta stay consistent, the P is to persevere
I is for integrity, innovative career
The O is optimistic, open and never shut
And the N is necessary because I’m never giving up.


It’s a song that could have been written for Mensah-Stock, particularly the chorus (I am invincible, unbreakable, unstoppable, unshakeable, they knock me down, I get up again, I am the champion).

But Mensah-Stock likes karaoke for more than the motivational lyrics. For her, karaoke is fun, and it’s why she brought a karaoke machine to Tokyo.

Tamyra Mariama Mensah-Stock (L) wrestles Nigeria's Blessing Oborududu (R) in their women's freestyle 68kg wrestling final match at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on Aug. 3, 2021 in Tokyo.

 

"People think that if you're going for a gold medal, an Olympic gold medal, you have to be gung-ho, focused, just omit everybody from your life, like, it’s lonely at the top,” she said, then countered emphatically, “No, it’s not!”

She wanted to have fun on her journey to Olympic gold. And getting on stage, singing her heart out is fun, she said. 

What was less fun was her journey to the 2016 Olympic Games. Mensah-Stock won 2016 U.S. Olympic Team Trials, but the U.S. had not qualified her weight class. So she went to Rio as a training partner for her teammates who would be wrestling on the Olympic stage.

It hurt when she had to inform people that she was not (yet) an Olympian, even though she had won her weight class at trials. Her coach told her to bottle those emotions and use them when she needed extra fire. 

“It definitely, definitely, definitely helped,” she said of making it to the Tokyo Games, then winning an Olympic gold medal.  “I didn't want to feel like that anymore because I think about it all the time.”

Mensah-Stock also confessed her love of video games and Anime, which she started watching with her twin sister when they were kids. They’re an outlet, she said, but more sedentary than karaoke, and they are almost meditative. 

“I’ve enjoyed the journey up until now,” she said. “Why change the process? I want to show people that you can have fun getting to your dreams.”

She also talked about wanting to inspire a new generation of female wrestlers, particularly Black girls who will look at Mensah-Stock and say to themselves, “She can do this, why can’t I do it too? She looks just like me, this is possible.”

Mensah-Stock wants to see more schools (high schools and colleges) add women’s wrestling programs. Her dream is to be a women’s coach for a NCAA Division 1 program, a job that does not (yet) exist, she said. 

She sees herself going to colleges in Texas and saying, “Hi, I’m an Olympic champion, and I want to be part of your D1 school and create a women’s wrestling program, please accept me.”

“Eventually somebody will say yes,” she added. “And if it’s not in Texas, well, then I’ll find a place that does. All I can do is just be me and hope for the best.”

Peggy Shinn

An award-winning freelance writer based in Vermont, Peggy Shinn has covered six Olympic Games. She has contributed to TeamUSA.org since its inception in 2008.

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