Victim of Sexual Abuse by Coach Claims Olymic Gold in Judo

By Gary Mihoces, USA Sports

LONDON – Atop the podium with the USA’s first Olympic gold medal in judo around her neck, Kayla Harrison had a grin that looked like it might last forever. But at the first note of the national anthem, she wept.

By Andrew Weber,, USA TODAY Sports
Shared victory: Kayla Harrison celebrates with coach Jimmy Pedro, a four-time Olympian in judo who won bronze in 1996 and 2004.

To earn gold Thursday in the 172-pound women’s division, Harrison beat four foes, including surprise British finalist Gemma Gibbons, who was cheered loudly by the home crowd.
But as the victim of sexual abuse by her former coach as a teenager, the 22-year-old Harrison had battled through far more. Six years ago she moved her training to a judo school in Wakefield, Mass., and came under the tutelage of Jimmy Pedro. Thursday, with Pedro at mat side as the USA’s Olympic judo coach, they made history.

For Harrison, it was a day to grin — and cry.

“I was just kind of reflecting back on my life and everything it’s taken to get here and everything I’ve gone through,” said Harrison, a native of Middletown, Ohio, who took up judo at age 6 because her mom wanted her to learn self defense. “I’m just so honored to be America’s first gold medalist in judo. I’m happy to realize my dream.”  Read more …

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