Harrison grabs first U.S. Olympic judo gold
The United States' Kayla Harrison holds a U.S. flag after winning the women's under-78-kilogram Olympic final in London.
August 2nd, 2012
01:40 PM ET

Harrison grabs first U.S. Olympic judo gold

Kayla Harrison says she almost quit judo because of sexual abuse by a coach. Instead, she’s now the first American to win Olympic gold in the sport.

Harrison, 22, won the women’s under-78-kilogram division in London on Thursday, beating the United Kingdom’s Gemma Gibbons in the finals of a 21-woman tournament.

Harrison, a Middletown, Ohio, native training in Massachusetts, became the United States’ only Olympic champion in the sport - woman or man. Ranked No. 4 in the world, she had upset top-ranked Brazilian Mayra Aguiar in the semifinals.

She started judo at roughly age 7. But to get to this point, she has said, she needed to overcome sexual abuse - starting at age 13 - by the person who was then coaching her.

“When I was 16, I told a close friend of mine, who immediately told my mother, and she immediately went to the police and pressed charges. The FBI got involved, and he’s actually serving 10 years … in prison,” Harrison told CNN’s Ashleigh Banfield on July 9, weeks before the Olympics began.

“Every day was a lie. Inside, I was in constant turmoil, but on the outside I was supposed to be this golden girl and so happy,” Harrison said.

Harrison said she almost dropped judo because of the abuse. She said that it was not only “hard to deal with to be normal, but also to compete in the sport.”

But she decided to stick with judo, going on to win gold at the 2008 Junior World Championships and the 2010 World Championships.

“You get to the point where you decide that you don’t want to be a victim anymore and that you’re not going to live your life like that,” she said.

Live blog: The latest at London 2012

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Filed under: Olympics • Sports
soundoff (155 Responses)
  1. Doug

    You should not call her an "Abuse Victim," but instead call her an "Abuse Survivor!"

    August 3, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  2. ClevelandGAL

    Great story! So important for survivors of abuse to know they CAN succeed and overcome the horrific things they endured! Another coach abusing story...makes me sick....

    August 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm | Report abuse |
  3. NoTax


    August 3, 2012 at 4:56 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Tara

    Parents need to constantly remind their children that if they are touched inappropriately in any way, they need to immediately speak up and tell someone! It's a shame she waited three years before saying anything as the whole thing could have been stopped after the first incident. Glad she had the strength and courage to continue.

    August 4, 2012 at 11:25 am | Report abuse |
  5. bigaugie

    Not surprisingly NBC didn't show this match during its prime time coverage. More fail.

    August 5, 2012 at 8:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • AD73

      Probably because they thought the Brit might win and America Media can't bear for that to be shown on primetime.

      August 7, 2012 at 5:18 am | Report abuse |
  6. Prometheus

    Holy crap. 1st, being 175lbs myself...if I saw a 175lb female drop into a martial arts stance I would buy her flowers.....QUICK.

    August 6, 2012 at 4:26 am | Report abuse |
  7. Chukwuemeka

    You have jumped all the obstacles to become a real champion

    August 7, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
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