Kayla Harrison Becomes First American Judoka to Win Gold; Talks Future

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On Thursday, Kayla Harrison has become Judo’s first Golden girl.

Harrsion was the first women ever to reach a Judo final and was the first male or female competitor ever to win a Gold at an Olympics. She fought hometown grappler Gemma Gibbons (Great Britain) in the 78 kg finals, and was able to outscore the Brit 2-0.

Both Harrison and her teammate Marti Malloy (Bronze) medaled, and were the only females representing Team USA.

“One of my favorite quotes from Michael Jordan is ‘Failure is my fuel,'” Harrison told us on the Wombat Sports podcast back in May.  “It keep me going and kept me hungry, and kept me wanting more.”

“Winning the World Championships and then winning a bronze medal a year later was a huge motivator for me, because I had lost my title and failed.  It was a big motivator for me to comeback and win at the Olympics with a vengeance.”

The biggest question everyone is asking is if Harrison will follow in fellow judo medalist’s Ronda Rousey’s footsteps and head to MMA. Although the gold medalist is thinking about retiring from Judo soon, MMA is still up in the air.

“I feel the women’s division are still a little bit shallow.  I feel like it would be just a big match between me and Ronda, and I used to work out with her every day. I don’t know. I’m not sure yet.”

However, BJJ maybe in Harrison’s future.

“My teammate Travis Stevens goes to the Gracie’s (dojo) in New York,” Harrison stated. “Renzo is super nice. He’s friendly with my coach Jimmy (Pedro), and he always had his door open for us. I think I’d like to try BJJ to see what it’s all about. To see how different it is from judo, and to see if I am good at it.”

With a gold around her neck, Harrison hopes that her win  will influence more women to take up judo.

“The Olympics is the highest stage in the world for athletes. It’s the best of the best. To be able to showcase judo and go out and give my best out there for fans (was) a huge opportunity for me. I (hoped) to make history and show what a really amazing sport this is.”

Audrey Tcheumeo of France and Mayra Aguiar of Brazil took the Bronze medals at 78 kg.

In results from Tuesday and Wednesday, Lucie Décosse of Frances takes the Gold at 70 kg; while Kerstin Thiele takes the Silver. At 63 kg, Urska Zolnir of Slovenia outscores China’s Xu Lili (silver) to take the Gold.

The final day of action in women’s Judo is Friday with the women’s heavyweights. Team USA won’t be competing, but you can watch the tournament on NBCOlympics.com.

You can listen to our complete interview with Kayala Harrison here

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