Hundreds gather to celebrate Kayla Harrison
BOSTON (WHDH) -- For the first time - an American judo player brings home an Olympic gold. Hundreds of fans gathered at a party in Boston to celebrate the historic win for the sport, and the monumental moment for the woman.
“You hope and hope and hope. You work and work and work. And you hope that one day your dreams will come true but to be the first Olympic champion is huge. I don't think I realize how huge it is,” said Harrison.
At 22-years-old, Kayla Harrison is the face of American judo - and the pride of the people who know her. She accepted Olympic gold with tears in her eyes.
“We were flying high. We haven't come down since,” said Jimmy Pedro, Jr., one of her coaches.
The father-son duo Jimmy and Jimmy Pedro have coached Harrison for the last six years. Surrounded by her friends and the family, the pair can finally celebrate all the battles Kayla Harrison has fought and won, on the mat and off.
“Her work ethic? Nobody can beat her work ethic,” said Jimmy Pedro, Sr.
Harrison, an Ohio native, moved to Wakefield to train with the Pedros after being sexually abused by a former judo coach. She's become known for speaking out about what happened to her. She’s using her new fame to speak up about the power of judo.
“That's my goal now. To get my sport out there. To make people learn judo is one of the best sports in the world. Whether you're the six year old kid who wants to learn some confidence or the 60 year old woman who wants to learn self defense,” said Harrison.
The athlete who's getting a lot of attention in Massachusetts for what she did in London - is already thinking about Rio in 2016.
Although she has plenty of plans while she's back in town. Harrison is engaged to a Marblehead firefighter. And one day, the champion has said, she'd like to fight fire too.
“Firefighting is probably going to have to be put on hold. But I do have to plan that wedding at some point,” said Harrison.