Kayla Harrison - History Made... Twice!!
Fans of USA Judo watching the 2016 Olympic Games were treated to an amazing display of fortitude, poise, determination, toughness and skill by the defending Olympic Champion Kayla Harrison. Seen by many as the most decorated judoka in U.S. history before entering the 2016 Games, Harrison cemented her legacy by not only repeating as Olympic Gold Medalist, but doing it in absolutely dominating fashion on the biggest stage of all.
To put this achievement in perspective, one need only go back to the 2012 Olympic Games where Harrison became the first U.S. judoka in history to ever win a gold medal at the Olympics. In a sport where Olympic gold is dominated by Japan, France and South Korea, Harrison established herself as one of the best judokas in history. Heading into the 2016 Olympics ranked #1 in her weight division, Harrison faced an immense amount of pressure by media and judo pundits not only repeat as Olympic champion, but to dominate her division. Given how tough the sport of judo is, the sometimes questionable judging and the one day tournament format, this was a very tall order. In the end, Harrison was more than up for the challenge, rising to the occasion and sealing her legacy in spectacular fashion by winning all of her matches by ippon.
A model of hard work and consistency, Harrison has drilled every drill thousands of times and competed when she wasn’t feeling her best. In addition to her dedication, Harrison is a true student of the game and has absorbed the knowledge of two generations of judo expertise in Jimmy Pedro Jr.,“Big Jim” Sr. and the Pedro Judo System. With athletic talent, a work ethic that is second to none, and the knowledge of two of the best coaches in the world most people would think Harrison was positioned for greatness. For Harrison however, the biggest part of her strength and championship attitude is the adversity and pain she’s had to overcome in her personal life. As the survivor of sexual abuse by her former judo coach, Harrison has endured the type of hurt and pain that no one should ever have to endure and that only those have experienced it could ever imagine. After learning of the abuse Harrison’s mother took the only step that made sense at the time… sending her to the top judo center in country and hope that the Pedro’s could take her under their wings and bring her back from the brink of being suicidal. The Pedro’s not only rekindled the fire in Harrison, they gave her a stage in which to flourish. Judo after all, is a martial art where you fall down; and then you get back up again.
Through intense training, focus and introspection Harrison was able to work through the pain and not only overcome it, but become a champion for victims of sexual abuse. Harrison created The Fearless Foundation which enables Harrison to use her star power to educate survivors of sexual assault through education, sport, and mastery of taking back control of one’s life. Harrison has beaten the worst odds that could ever be thrown at a person individually and she has shined brightly through it all.Congratulations on making history not once, but twice Kayla!!! You deserve all of the accolades you've received and more. We look forward to being inspired by you, on and off the mats for many years to come.