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‘I want to be an inspiration,’ says U.S.’s first Black female gold medalist wrestler

Newly-crowned Tokyo 2020 Olympics champion Tamyra Mensah-Stock is on a mission after becoming the first Black American woman to win a wrestling gold medal at a Games: to inspire a young generation of athletes who will look at her and be empowered.

The world champion had capped her Olympic debut with a gold medal in the women’s freestyle light heavyweight category on Tuesday and said she was ready for her new role in life.

“Now that I’m on the stage, and I am a black woman on the Olympic stage and I have a gold medal, there are younger people,” she told a news conference on Wednesday.

“Take (U.S. wrestling talent) Kennedy Blades for example. She can see herself on the stage and go, ‘she did this. Why can’t I do it? She looks just like me. This is possible.’ I want to be an inspiration to as many people as I can.”

Mensah-Stock had a tough draw in Tokyo before reaching the final and beating Nigerian veteran and 10-times African champion Blessing Oborududu 4-1 in the final.

The 28-year-old American first had to overpower Rio 2016 champion Sara Dosho of Japan, then beat China’s Zhou Feng who she had lost to twice before, and then eliminate Ukraine’s 2018 world champion Alla Cherkasova.

“What I love to say is to be the best, you have to beat the best and going up against an Olympic gold medallist in my first round? Boy that was a lucky draw,” she said.

“And then the second person I wrestled… I actually lost to Zhou twice. I had never beaten her.

“My third match against Ukraine – it was hellishly tough. And the fact that I was able to dominate, it just shows me, everybody, you guys see this? I’m doing this.”

But it was not all work in Tokyo, with the wrestler bringing her karaoke machine with her to relax.

“The karaoke machine is not a secret. People think when you’re going for a gold medal, you have to be gung-ho, focused, just omit everybody from your life,” Mensah-Stock added.

“That’s one thing I didn’t want. I wanted to have fun doing it. Because in the end, the journey is the most important thing. Did I enjoy my journey? I most certainly did.”

(Production: Nathan Frandino, Karolos Grohmann, Leah Millis, Piroschka Van De Wouw)

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