Behind the Springs podcast: training in Olympic City USA

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She’s a 2019 World Champion women’s freestyle wrestler and she trains right here in Olympic City USA! Hear from Tamyra Mensah-Stock about her exciting journey as she sets her sights on competing in the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 this summer. What’s it like to train in Colorado Springs? What does it take to become an Olympic athlete? Jen and Ted ask these questions and many more. Join them to learn about women’s wrestling and this amazing local athlete who you will hopefully be watching compete on NBC this summer!  

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Episode Transcripts

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Speaker 1: (00:00)
You have likely heard that Colorado Springs is a Olympic city, USA. You might know about the Olympic training center and the U S Olympic and Paralympic committee headquarters here in Colorado Springs, but we want to focus today on the athletes, one in particular who just so happens to be a world champion and can give us an idea of what it means to train here and what that training involves as she sets her sights on Tokyo. The summer games. We'll be here. Ted, before you know it, Tokyo 2020. We are excited to welcome 2019 women's freestyle world champion and United wrestling federations women's wrestler of the year to Mira Mensa stock. Thank you for being here with us. Hi.

Speaker 1: (01:23)
Thank you so much for giving us your time to explain your training. And first of all, your sports. Do you mind if we just start with asking a little bit about you and how you even got to be where you are and got into this whole deal? No, I don't mind at all. I welcome it open, but yeah, you're right. Or else I wouldn't be doing it. Seven years old. Is that when you started? No, no, no. Oh, I said I thought you said seven years old. You started, well actually started when I was 15. I was actually kind of on the older side. Okay. People usually start when they're seven, four, right? 10. What got you going? So I was actually in track and field when I first, um, just started competing in any sports. And um, I wa I was in middle school and high school when I was doing it and I was a sprinter as well as a jumper. And our sophomore year my twin actually came up to me and had said, Hey Tamara, would you like to be a wrestler? They're looking for some athletes and she was, she, um, the only reason why she got into it, cause she didn't want to be in a normal sport and our mom told her to get off of the couch and do something with her life because I would be at track meets every single weekend. She just be at home.

Speaker 1: (02:42)
So she got into it because her mom wanted her to do something and my mom was like, basketball track and field tennis, swimming, bowling, anything. And she was like, I want to be a combat sport. So that's how she got into it and she drug me along with her and I actually hated it. Hated wrestling first off, like it sucked like 100%. I was a germaphobe, I was in track and field where I wore hoops to practice. My hair was in a perm and my hair was in a ponytail and would always bounce when I would run looking good. I was looking good all the time. That's why I was like, Hey, I'd be my earrings for this. Like still kind of a girly girl. So going into wrestling, people were sweating on me. People were taking me down to a mat that even though it was cushioned, it was still hard because they were slamming me down and you know, I felt like they were kind of mean.

Speaker 1: (03:30)
But after my twin convinced me to stay for an entire month until we had our first team duals, I, I ended up actually beating a state qualifier. I th I took her to her back and pinned her and everybody was ecstatic and I was actually two weight classes, so I was 2020 pounds above where I normally sit. So the girl was heavier than me and I took her down, pinned her to a back and one and I thought to myself, I could actually do this sport for a while. Hey, I'm kinda good at this. Yeah, like just naturally. And I realized how natural I was at it when I actually got second at state championships later on that year and followed up with that the next year got, um, the actual title and then the, another title my senior year with my twin, we were back to back state champions.

Speaker 2: (04:25)
Well and practicing. I'm sure it couldn't get any better. Tell us there has to be some good home stories of where did you grow up? Yeah,

Speaker 1: (04:33)
I grew up in Texas. You guys. I was actually born in Chicago, Illinois, but raised in Texas. And so being here in Colorado is so cold. It's freezing. You're here. Why? Explain to people you're training here. I am training here at the Olympic training center because after I graduated college, I needed somewhere that had good wrestler, good female wrestlers that I could train with and better myself. And so not taken away from my college program because I actually made my first, that's where I won the Olympic trials in 2016. Why did you go to school at Wayland Baptist university and Texas, Plainview, Texas. So not taking anything away from that program at all, but you know, you just need time to grow, learn and learn to grow. And so I had to just shift where I was and so I came here, got better. And I've made every world team since I moved out here. Wow. We must be lucky.

Speaker 2: (05:28)
No. Well, and also we're doing this podcast for those that don't know, I don't know how you couldn't know, but we're Olympic city USA, so as we lead up to Tokyo in the summer, um, we love that you're coming on the show with us. But I gotta go back to that question, uh, about your home life, having your twin also wrestling. There's gotta be a good story, right about you. Did you guys battle it out at all? Oh man.

Speaker 1: (05:53)
Or were you yeah. Uh, so growing. We actually would always, we never punched each other growing up. That's the thing. Never,

Speaker 2: (06:03)
well it sounds like a couple of wrestlers, so there you go.

Speaker 1: (06:05)
Exactly. But we would always fight and scramble with each other, like just get on top and like just try to whatever kids do. And when we joined wrestling, I hated wrestling her, like she was 10 pounds smaller than me and she was just incredibly strong and like already I didn't like the sport. So when I had to wrestle my two and I'd be like, tequila goes, does she still wrestle or no, she does it. So she actually, the reason why she didn't win state championships our sophomore year or our junior year is because she actually got hurt. Oh. So like she like blew out her knee our first year of wrestling and yeah, so hers is like a comeback story. I'm always so proud to just tell her story and I know we don't have much a lot of time, but like that girl right there, she is the epitome of why I also continue wrestling now because her dream was to actually just travel the world and wrestle and she never got to do that.

Speaker 1: (07:02)
And she actually had the opportunity, uh, when we both actually made a Nash or a world team together and, uh, we were supposed to be traveling to Turkey but Turkey had a civil war and USA wrestling was like, you're not going, I'm, I'm, I'm grateful for that. But you know, it just kinda sucks. Disappointed you go to your matches. A lot of times she gets pissed off when I don't tell her it's in the country actually. Kinda uh, uh yeah it fell to do that. My family all actually gets pissed off at me. They're like, why didn't you tell us you were wrestling in the country cause you don't do it often. Right. They all want to be there. They do. And I'm like, well you guys, I don't know, I just figured that you guys didn't have the time and you're like, no, we want to be there. So my mom, my aunt, my twin are like, Hey, we are going to Olympic trials. I'm like, alright, I got y'alls tickets ready to go. Y'all just get your flights, your Airbnb hotel. Tell us about that. Yes. So Olympic trials. April 4th is the only day that I'm wrestling, but I'm going to be winging in April 3rd and April 4th. And the reason why I only be wrestling April 4th is because I am the world champion.

Speaker 1: (08:19)
So I will only have to wrestle in the finals of Olympic trials

Speaker 2: (08:24)
and tell us a about the world championships. That was back in September, right? We got to put the video up on our pack. Yes. So if you're listening to the podcast, make sure you go to Colorado and you'll be able to find links on this page to the video because the video was awesome. I watched it, uh, earlier before we interviewed you today. Um, tell us a victory lap. Tell us, just tell us about the whole, uh, what the championships are and where you were too. Because like you said, you don't normally wrestle a lot in the USA.

Speaker 1: (08:55)
Don't. I was in [inaudible] stand and assaulting you guys and it's, it's a weird city, but it was a new city. So near Salton was actually only, I think five years old. And it was, it was high tech when I was there and though I was focused on wrestling, I still got to see a little bit of the city and it was very nice. That is my husband calling.

Speaker 2: (09:18)
Oh no, silence the call. Yeah, it's live. We're on video too. So go check out our YouTube page. It was a great, that was a great way to promote cross promote there

Speaker 1: (09:32)
break. But we want to come back and ask you especially what it's like training here in Colorado Springs. Um, what that means to you for you and then also what's coming next. I know April is the big date and then the hope is Tokyo 2020.

Speaker 2: (09:47)
Well and we'll finish the championship story too. That's what we'll do first when we come back after the commercial break.

Speaker 3: (09:54)
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Speaker 2: (10:31)
all right, we are back for the second half of this great podcast where we are here with a prospective Olympian and we're kind of getting into how you're going to qualify for that. But um, one of the things that we were talking about was the championships, the world championships back in September. Um, I want you to tell us about that, but I want you to start off telling us what does it feel like putting on the red, white, and blue and going out there. This isn't for your school, this is for your high school. This isn't for your college anymore. I mean, you are, uh, you're, you're going for your country. You're going to hear that national Anthem if you get gold. So what does that like?

Speaker 1: (11:08)
Oh man. So it's an amazing feeling. First off, the reason why is because I, every chance I get when I see a person in arms, like I'm a military person, I go up to them and I shake their hand and I say thank you for your service. And though I'm not in the military, I think of this what I'm doing as a way to represent my country. And it is amazing and I don't have to go in and like fight and you know, was two people. So it's, it's a great representation for me. And when I hear the Anthem, when I put on the red, white and blue, I feel like I am a perfect representation of what an American should be. I'm going and representing us on the mat. And when I step on that podium, people appreciate that me, that's up there. They're like, actually she deserves that. Like she's a hard worker. She's agreed American and it's, um, it's a great feeling knowing that there's a whole bunch of people on your side and on your team.

Speaker 2: (12:04)
Well, and at those championships you won. Um, and like we said already, you can find that video on the webpage for the podcast. It's fantastic to watch. At the end of it. It really hit me because you won, they raise your hand and then you could tell it took you about 30 seconds or so before it fully hit you, I think of of what you had accomplished. So explain the emotions, the outpouring emotion that you had, uh, after that.

Speaker 1: (12:30)
Gotcha. So after every match, um, I know some people go like, Oh yeah, I just kind of go raise my hands, like are exhausted. And so when I tried to, um, like when he raised my hand, I was like, yo, this is the finals. I, I actually just won the world championships and I was actually trying to, like, if you notice in the video, I'm trying to pull my coaches up there with me. I'm like, yeah, well it was because of you. And you're like, no, this is your moment. I've looked it up here with me and I start crying. I was like, come up here with me and you're like, go do it to bare. You got it to your moment. I'm like, all right, fine. I can't believe I was, Oh my God. It was amazing. I was curious who hands the American flag because whenever an American wins somewhere, somebody brings out that flag perfectly placed.

Speaker 1: (13:28)
How do I get that job? Who's handing the flights? Our coaches, coaches. So like they just, the fact that they had that flag waiting for me, they had the confidence that I was going to win. So that right there, that's one of the reasons why I wanted them to get up there with me. Cause I always see after people won a Olympic championships or world championships, they bring their coaches up and they either get picked up by their coach, they do a body slam, they do a head and arm, whatever. And I'm like, I just want them to run around the circle with me. And they're like, no, just take the flag and go. Like they're humble. They're humble. But um, that was my mindset. I was mind blown. I was giving so much grace to God. I couldn't believe that. I like how focused I stayed the entire year.

Speaker 1: (14:16)
Like you guys. I was undefeated the entire year. Just headstrong, focus, knew what I wanted. His last year I had got third and I knew that I was capable of winning the championships. Oh, that's awesome. And so next up is April and we had the dates a little off there, April 4th and fifth right. Okay. That's okay. The break, she was texting her family to switch some flights around. That is where you will find out then if you are for sure going to Tokyo. Correct. That's how it works in the world of wrestling. Okay. I know every sports a little different. People get confused but you feel confident going into this next? I do. Oh my gosh. Just talking about this is getting my hands clammy with excitement of course, but yes, that is when I find out and I find out based on how I perform in the finals and it's best two out of three so it's kind of like paper, scissors, rocks, like you would the first one you in the second one, you're good if you lose the first one when the second, when you go to a third one. When the first one lose a second again to the third one.

Speaker 2: (15:19)
And you've already already automatically qualified for that final match because of you're not a bad little bonus that comes with that. We'll talk a little bit about the sport too. We kind of jumped into your background. Obviously wrestling has been around since, uh, the original Olympic games. Um, it looked like women's wrestling was brought in 2004. Um, was there some sort of, uh, issue where it might not have been in the 2020 Olympics

Speaker 1: (15:52)
actually, yeah. And 2016 they were trying to get wit trying to get rid of wrestling and um, there was a lot, there was an entire movement where they were like 20, 20 vision and that's actually when I kinda got on the scene. So I was kinda confused as to what was going on and my coaches, uh, Terry, he was like, Hey, would you like to go to a double tour with us? Cause we're trying to promote women's wrestling and men's wrestling and just trying to make sure it stays in the Olympics. And I was like, sure, why not? Yeah, I'll go. I've never been to Greece before. Take the trip. Exactly right. It was beautiful by the way. But um, yeah, there was a time when it wasn't gonna be in the Olympics and that would leave me but not the opportunity to be in LA.

Speaker 2: (16:36)
I was gonna say, where would you be now if there was no 20, 20, uh, wrestling, uh, would you still be doing this?

Speaker 1: (16:44)
Probably not. Yeah, cause, but in the end goal for practically every single wrestler is not only to be a world champion but an Olympic champion. Like we don't go out here like literally going through blood, sweat and tears every single day like today and practice y'all, I got kicked in the face twice. Like, like when, I mean blood, sweat and tears, I mean blood, sweat and tears. So like we don't get on that mat every single day just to kind of like a national title. We don't get recognition that way. Like when we go onto the mat, we're like, we're doing this because we want to be an Olympic champions, world champions. And we have a wall of champions actually at the Olympic training center and I will be up there eventually, but I want there to be a 2019 world champion and a 2020 Olympic champion on that, on that wall.

Speaker 1: (17:30)
And I want that to be my name next to that. So, um, yeah, I probably wouldn't be doing the sport if it wasn't in the Olympics, I'd probably be a physical therapist. Tell us that's not bad either. Tell us about your, um, experience training here and just your experience living in Colorado Springs. Oh man. So every day, every single day, I love looking at those mountains. And right now those mountains are like just covered in snow. And I'm like, wow, they look a little weird today. But, um, it is beautiful and I love looking at them. I love being here. The elevation is just a thing of the past. You know, you just kind of live with it. It's always [inaudible].

Speaker 2: (18:09)
Well, and that's a reason too, for having the training center here. I mean, once you go back to, uh, to Texas elevation, then I'm sure you feel like a superhuman.

Speaker 1: (18:19)
I rec house on everyone but more so than what I usually do at, uh, at, um, at this elevation. But, um, it's, it's amazing being here. Like I have great training partners, I have great coaches and every day I'm just learning something new and even if it's something that I had learned five months ago, it's still new to me cause I've tried, I've learned so many things. Like there's just so many things that you can learn in wrestling. You could be a five time Olympic champion and still continue to learn. There'll be old but like still learning and um, I I love what the training center has to offer and uh, just living here in Colorado, like being like when I go downtown, like I love that when I, when I walk, yes, I walk up the end. Clyde, when I walk up the incline,

Speaker 2: (19:05)
well you're not one of the ones sprinting up there. I'm not the one that goes one leg and then the other leg or does it track anymore. So you don't need to do that. You use that as one of your

Speaker 1: (19:16)
yes. Every now and then, maybe like once every four months. It's not like a lot, but when I go I like taking my dogs up there and my husband likes doing it too. And um, it's great just getting the city view and uh, I love it. I love being here. I miss Texas, but just this outdoors-y area. It's incredible. Do you think Pike's peak region is going to be possibly a forever home for you? Ah, me, my husband has talked to. Depends on your family, right? Yeah. We really want to go back to Texas cause our family is in Texas and I miss, yeah, I talk to them every day. Like I just talked to my mom on the phone last night and she was like

Speaker 2: (19:58)
championship match. She keeps watching it on repeat

Speaker 1: (20:02)
over and over and I just kind of miss like being in that vicinity because we're family oriented and right now it's just me and my husband, which is great. But well even if you're just here for a short time, we're so thankful to have you. Four more years. 2024. Okay. Can we also jump back to 2016 yeah. Talk about that. Cause you did win the USA qualifiers. I did. I want Olympic trials in 2016 so why no Rio? So the reason why is the weight didn't get qualified. And so the thing with world championships, world championships, every single country can go. And so everybody's there for the unlimited [inaudible]. It's like I think top 16 so you have to qualify. So it to like 42 countries to 16 is it like they only want the best of the best of the best of the best air cause they don't want them, you know, like lax bass matches.

Speaker 1: (20:56)
And so I'm at the 2015 world championships. The way didn't get qualified. And then when I, um, tried to qualify at myself three times, I felt like it was, it was heartbreaking. I got third, third and third and it had to be top two. And for men it's actually top three. And for the first two. So I was like, if only I was God, I would be going like, but I love being a female. I love being a woman but I'm so I, I missed it and I honestly didn't understand the process back then and I was just so confused cause I was like, I did all that work. I want Olympic trials, I beat so many great people and I don't get to go and represent my country. I have to go and prove myself and actually try to get on the a limpic roster.

Speaker 1: (21:49)
So it, it, it was devastating. Heartbreaking. I still remember how I feel. I still remember how I feel on the mat, how I felt on the mat. But that's also, that was also a catalyst to help me where I'm at now. Yeah, absolutely. I was going to say, so you are moral of the story overdue yet. Oh way overdue. I am all, it's burning in me right now and the fact that I don't get to wrestle the entire Olympic trials just like to kind of get the ball rolling. It's kind of weird cause I'm, I'm used to not sitting out. I'm used to fighting and taking everything for myself. And so just sitting there and waiting and seeing who I am, who I get to rest them like they're all nervous about you. Yeah. Yeah, yeah. Cause they know, yeah, they don't feel that great about that. But you can always practice with your sister leading up until then she is still so strong. I wrestled her a few months ago and I was like, how are you still strong? But she weights trained every single day. She is still lifting weights. So that girl is strong. Yeah. Well so any favorite stories that you want to leave us with or anything like I smile, like when I first started wrestling I always had a smile on my face when I was taking them down and my coaches were like, stop.

Speaker 1: (23:10)
It was probably worse. So like I, I enjoy what I do and I'm a happy person and when I step on the mat, it's actually weird to see the switch go on. Cause you're like, is that the same woman that's the same person? I'm like, yeah, that's still Tamir out there. She's just not smelling. She's, she's serious. So, um, that's, that's something that I just want to set people straight also. Um, uh, you don't have to like some people say that it's lonely at the top and honestly it hasn't been lonely for me at all. Like, like I said, I have my husband talked to my family every day and sometimes when I feel alone I look at my husband and I go, Jacob, you know exactly how I feel right now. Cause he was also a wrestler. It's not lonely at the top. If anything, you got to the top because of all the people that helped you and you just don't leave them to the wayside just because you're at the top. You bring them with you and you go, Hey, we all got this. You know what my goal is? You know what my goal is? You sound like you have a great tribe.

Speaker 2: (24:09)
I do. I'm like, I want to go back to my head

Speaker 1: (24:15)
has filled the mini shoes that are not here with us and I'm a good local group. Yes, great local group. So it's not lonely at the top and that's just something that people say and I go, no. Like when I first started out as well, I want it to go, it's not lonely at the top and I'm going to make it so, so I'm married the, I don't have any kids yet cause I want to give all my attention to them when they're born. But um, yeah, it's pretty awesome at the top. It's really awesome and it's not lonely at all. All of a sudden these people are coming out of the woodworks like, Hey, it's a mirror. Oh my gosh. Remember when you met me at 2016 I'd go,

Speaker 2: (24:53)
Nope. Have you been on the ride the whole time or are you just jumping off? Sorry, all of our listeners, some of them may jump on the women's wrestling bandwidth. That's okay. Right. Okay. You'll welcome them. Absolutely. I hug

Speaker 1: (25:05)
y'all. I am a hugger, so I will embrace you with open arms. We'll have a conversation and I'll just go, heck yeah, I'll remember that face and forget your name.

Speaker 2: (25:14)
That's okay. Yeah, you have called me Mike before the show to learn more about Olympic sports, whatever those may be. So thank you for listening and thank you for being on and educating us and telling us about your experience. We're excited to see what's next. I can't wait. I think your charisma, hopefully if you make it to Tokyo. Yes. Um, well we'll take over there and we're glad that you've come on to our small behind the Springs podcast before. I'm sure NBC is going to be all about talking to you. I already did NBC to tell your big time. Well, nice of you to come here too. No, this is great. I loved it. Thank you for having me. Thanks for helping us promote the city and the great work that Olympic city USA is doing. Uh, April 4th and fifth, you'll be actually wrestling on the fifth at Penn state. Correct. So it'll be at Penn state. Uh, where can people watch that? Is that NBC sports?

Speaker 1: (26:11)
Um, no, I think it will be on track. Wrestling and flow wrestling. Okay.

Speaker 2: (26:15)
So, so look for it. You'll be able to find it. Um, absolutely. I will post some of that on there as well. But uh, for right now, Jen, I think you have some extra information that you want to give us the news for folks. Um, we want to remind you of a couple of things, um, before we let you go. Um, number one is the 2020 census is coming up. Uh, every 10 years the census counts every single person living in the United States. So this is you, I'm talking to you. Whoever you are starting in March,

Speaker 1: (26:44)
you're going to get something in the mail that asks you to fill out the census. It is safe. It's secure, it's super easy, super fast. You can do it online, uh, by email, by phone. There's all different ways you can go to 20, 20 to find out about it. And it means big money.

Speaker 2: (26:59)
Please. We need money, big money programs that it's going to help. Things like HUD, affordable housing. Um, yeah, this is huge for our region. And then Jan, you also have, uh, a couple of fantastic stories to share about CSP days.

Speaker 1: (27:14)
Uh, two of our officers were just recognized with a prestigious bill Daniels true blue award. Oh yeah, definitely. This is for folks that go above and beyond their duties are officers, um, to help people in need. So we have Sergeant Larry Morgan first of all, back in June of 2019, he was notified of a tragic traffic crash involving a motorcycle. Both the driver and passenger died from that motorcycle crash and left behind four children. And so Sergeant Morgan took control the situation. He ensured the children were fret or fed, brought them to the substation so they could be notified by a chaplain. When he brought them home, he realized they, that he needed to buy some groceries for the kids and get them all set up until their family could come from Texas. And he did all of that for them so that he could make it as easy as possible during such a tragic time.

Speaker 1: (28:04)
It's just like that tragic moment and it's just that extra little mile that our officers go that you don't see because it's kind of behind the scenes. So he was recognized for that wonderful work that he did with those children. And also in June, 2019, officer, um, Alexis Falcon was dispatched to the scene, another traffic crash. Um, one of the people involved with Spanish speaking. So officer Falcon remained there and used his skills to communicate with the family about the crash. And then he figured out that there was a three year old child on the, suffered from a disability and didn't have the, the correct car seat. So he went to a nearby store, he used his own money, purchased a new car seat for the family, um, and they were able to correctly install the car seat and, um, safely get that kiddo home. And everybody was okay. But just, it's just those little things. And I know that there are plenty of officers out there doing them every day, but it's nice to recognize that for them, you know, for doing that. Congratulations to officer Falcon. We have more heroes than we can count in this city. So, um,

Speaker 2: (29:05)
well, and it's nice when there's stories that, you know, maybe not, don't hit the big media because it's something that they wanted to do and did it so that they weren't really, uh, uh, seen or, you know, doing it for media. And then they're on officers go out and,

Speaker 1: (29:20)
Oh yeah. Our officers are so humble that we thank them for their service. And we thank you for listening.

Speaker 2: (29:27)
Other edition of behind the Springs, watch the Olympics, 2020 Tokyo and watch those, uh, uh, wrestling Olympic trials. April 5th, April 5th.


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