By Kyle Thompson
On Thursday, August 2, 22 year old Kayla Harrison, a native of Middletown, Ohio, proudly claimed the gold medal in the 172-pound women's division. After conquering four opponents, including a home crowd favorite, British finalist Gemma Gibbons, Kayla proudly stood atop the podium with USA's first Olympic gold medal in judo around her neck.
"I'm just so honored to be America's first gold medalist in judo. I'm happy to realize my dream."
Kayla took up judo at the young age of 6 when her mom wanted her to learn self-defense. When she was 16, she moved her training to Wakefield, Massachusetts to train at a judo school under the coaching of Jimmy Pedro. Pedro is an iconic US Olympic judo star. In his four attemps at the gold medal, he was only able to earn 2 bronze medals.
In her earlier matches, Harrison won with two submissions and a match-ending throw. In the finals against Gemma Gibbons, Harrison scored two yukos by throwing Gibbons on her side and with the lead, she kept pressure on Gibbons and kept her from scoring.
USAToday VIDEO: Check out America's first gold medalist in judo, Kayla Harrison