Tamyra Mensah-Stock became the second American woman to win a wrestling gold medal with victory in the 68kg freestyle category on Tuesday.
The reigning world champion appeared to sustain a leg injury 40 seconds into the six-minute bout but recovered to win 4-1 on points, spinning her opponent over, scoring points from a pair of takedowns and defending solidly as the seconds ticked away.
The result means that Nigeria’s first Olympic wrestling medal is a silver for Blessing Oborududu, the 32-year-old 10-time African champion.
Mensah-Stock, 28, formed a heart sign with her hands at the end then dissolved into tears as she draped a US flag over her shoulders and walked around the mat to take applause from spectators at the Makuhari Messe Hall in Chiba, 关于 19 miles east of central Tokyo. She is also the first black woman to win wrestling gold in Olympic history, according to Team USA.
An ebullient character who was born in Chicago and raised in the Houston area, she took up wrestling after being bullied by teammates on her high school track-and-field squad. She came close to quitting the sport after her father died in a car accident on the way home from one of her high school tournaments.
She produced a poised and composed performance against Oborududu despite final preparations that were undermined by nerves and noisy neighbours. “I tried to sleep last night and the people above me were extremely loud so that didn’t really happen,” she said in a press conference.
“And then in the morning, made weight, I watched two episodes of The Walking Dead, my coach, Izzy [Vladislav Izboinikov], he made sure I got food in me because I did not feel like sleeping. I was nervous. 男子, I was so nervous.”
Watching her teammates compete in the morning session did not help. “That made me even more jittery,“ 她说. “There was just like lot of, like, nerve-wracking moments and I just tried to stay calm. That was extremely impossible. I honestly don’t even freaking know how I did it. 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!’”
The US Olympic and Paralympic Committee rewards gold-medal winning Olympic athletes with a prize of $37,500. Mensah-Stock already knows how she intends to spend it. “I wanted to give my mom $30,000 so she can get a food truck. It’s her dream,“ 她说. “My mom’s getting her food truck! She’s going to have a little cooking business. She can cook really, 真的, really well – barbecue. I don’t eat it because I’m a pescatarian now.”
Though Mensah-Stock won the US Olympic trials in 2016 she did not get to compete in Rio because the US did not have a quota place for the tournament in her weight class.
Her title follows the gold won in Rio by Helen Maroulis in the 53kg category. Maroulis, who since suffered from serious concussions, is set to wrestle in the 57kg event on Wednesday against Rong Ningning of China.
Mensah-Stock reached the final with a victory over the experienced Alla Cherkasova of Ukraine in the semi-final a day earlier. Cherkasova took a bronze, pinning the 2016 champion, Sara Dosho of Japan. Meerim Zhumanazarova of Kyrgyzstan also won bronze by defeating Battsetseg Soronzonbold, 这 “unbreakable flower” of Mongolia.
This is a sport that can trace its Olympic origins back to 708 BC, never mind the first modern Games in 1896, but women’s freestyle was not added to the programme until 2004.
USA Wrestling arrived in Tokyo with high hopes of improving on their Rio medal tally of two golds and a bronze. Five-time world champion Adeline Gray claimed silver a day earlier in the women’s 76kg category, though Kayla Miracle, Alejandro Sancho and John Stefanowicz all lost on Tuesday.
But the American roster is deep, and Kyle Dake (men’s freestyle 74kg) and the Rio gold medallist Kyle Snyder (freestyle 97kg) are set to compete later in the week, while David Taylor, 这 2018 world champion, is a medal prospect at 86kg.