Olympic gold medalist Tamrya Mensah-Stock said her post-win display of patriotism, which went viral almost immediately, was divinely inspired.
Her joy at winning gold in Tokyo touched the hearts of millions spoke on Wednesday night about her love for the United States.
Mensah-Stock won a gold medal in women’s wrestling, only the second ever for a woman from the United States and the first for a black woman. After winning, she gave an impromptu interview while wrapped in the American flag she was holding while standing on the medal podium.
“I love representing the U.S. I freaking love living there,” Mensah-Stock told reporters.
Mensah-Stock’s attitude stands in stark contrast to fellow Olympians Gwen Berry and Raven Saunders, both of whom staged protests during the Games.
Berry, a 31-year-old hammer thrower, staged a high-profile protest during the Olympic trials on June 26 – turning to face the stands, putting her hands on her hips and then holding up a t-shirt bearing the words ‘athlete activist’.
Shot putter Raven Saunders raised her arms above her head on the podium and formed an ‘X’ with her wrists as she claimed her silver medal.
Mensah-Stock, who is the child of an immigrant, spoke highly of her home country and explained to Fox & Friends that she felt inspired by God to express gratitude.
“That specific moment when he asked me that I felt like, I went into a trance and God just spoke through me, and I was like, ‘All right, look directly at the camera and just go,’’ she told the hosts. Mensah-Stock added that she felt her words could help stem the negativity that had dogged the games.
“I know there’s a lot of negativity going on, and I just want to enlighten people of my feelings to spread positivity, and it happened,” she said.
She later added that she remains pleased with what she said — and also grateful to have represented the United States.
“I was born here,” Mensah-Stock said. “My dad is an immigrant from Ghana where he met my mom. I grew up in Texas. It’s the only place I know, and I have traveled all over the world and I definitely wouldn’t want to live anywhere else. I prefer here. Japan was beautiful, here is better.”
During a separate post-win interview, Mensah-Stock stated that she intends to use her winnings as an American Olympic medalist — just under $40,000 — to assist her mother in purchasing a food truck.
“She’s always doing back-breaking work and — I’ve just seen her struggling ever since my dad died and I don’t like seeing it,” she told reporters. “I made a promise to her and she loves cooking. It’s just one of her passions. Growing up, we’d be like, ‘Ooh, mommy, you put your back into this food. Like you literally put your foot in it.’”