Judo: Kayla Harrison Makes History with Gold Medal Win at Abu Dhabi Grand Prix Just over two months after becoming the youngest athlete to win a World title at this year’s event, 20-year-old Kayla Harrison ( NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) made history again.
Photo Courtesy: judo.teamusa.org/Chuck Medani - Aaron Cohen, Kayla Harrison and Katie Sell all comepted at the Senior Worlds.
Just over two months after becoming the youngest athlete to win a World title at this year’s event, 20-year-old Kayla Harrison (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE) made history again.
On Wednesday, Harrison won gold in the 78kg division at the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The win marked Harrison’s 10th medal on the World Tour circuit – more than any other player in the world this year.
“Kayla proved why she is the World Champion today,” said her coach Jimmy Pedro (Wakefield, Mass. / NYAC / USA Judo National Team FORCE). “This year has been a long, hard year for Kayla and we have been pushing her non-stop since Worlds using these events as training sessions to get better. Her ability to win gold here, despite not being in peak condition for the event, demonstrates that she can beat anyone when she sets her mind to it.”
Harrison had a first-round bye and armbarred Audrey Koumba (GAB) 40 seconds into the match to advance to the quarter-finals.
In the quarters, Harrison earned her third win against two-time World Cup medalist Daria Pogorzelec (POL) this year. Harrison took an early lead when she threw Pogorzelec for a yuko during the opening exchange. Midway through the match, Pogorzelec attacked Harrison with a te guruma (hand wheel throw), but Harrison countered with a throw for a waza-ari (half-point) score. Pogorzelec was ejected from the match, however, for grabbing Harrison’s leg during her throw attempt, giving Harrison the win.
In the semifinals, Harrison fought Audrey Tcheumeo (FRA) for the third time this year. After defeating Tcheumeo in the finals of the 2008 Junior Worlds, the Frenchwoman won their next two matches at the Rio de Janeiro Grand Slam in May and the Rotterdam Grand Prix in October.
With neither player able to score during the regulation period, the match went to Golden Score (overtime) where Harrison threw Tcheumeo for ippon with 40 seconds remaining in the match.
“Jimmy took me back to the drawing board and really helped me with the key adjustments that needed to be made, not only on the mat, but in my head. He let me know that this was going to be a battle and whoever wanted it more was gonna win it,” Harrison said. “He poked me in the chest and he said ‘It’s in here!’ and he was right. I wanted it and I knew as soon as I made up my mind I was gonna win, I would.”
Coach Pedro agreed that Harrison’s mindset was key to earning the win.
“Kayla mentally got up for her semifinal rematch against the Tcheumeo to prove she is the best in the weight class,” Coach Pedro said. “Although that match was a battle, the adjustments that Kayla made, and being disciplined throughout the match, led to her success.”
In the finals, Harrison fought Zhehui Zhang (CHN) –