Olympics… gotta love it! As someone who sells martial arts mats, judo mats and wrestling mats for a living I never understood why judo didn’t get more coverage here in the United States? Maybe that’s because before today the USA has never won a gold medal in Judo? Well, thanks to Kayla Harrison who won the first Olympic Gold medal in judo for the USA in the women’s 78-kilogram title, that will no longer be the case. Kayla is a 22-year-old with an inspirational story.
As a teenager Harrison tried to run away from home and considered suicide after suffering in silence through three years of sexual abuse at the hands of her first competitive judo coach. Thank goodness, Kayla got a second chance at judo… and life.
She moved from a small town in Ohio to a suburb of Boston and became part of an elite judo program. Her coach, Jimmy Pedro, a two-time Olympic medalist said “The American media have really embraced her. They followed her. They’re going to eat her up from here until forever. She’s a good, good person. Cares about other people. Always willing to give back. She has an attitude of gratitude. And there’s nobody more deserving than her to climb to the top of podium. She never skips a practice, she never skips a run, a lift.”
In an effort to inspire others from suffering as she did, Harrison has talked openly about her past. She now hopes to inspire others to give judo. ”I hope that America loves my story and hopefully a little girl or a little boy sees it and says, ‘Wow, mom I want to do that,’” Kayla said.
Way to go Kayla Harrison!