Team USA's Kayla Harrison named First Winner of Inspiration Award

By Ernest Pund | Aug. 10, 2012, 2:23 p.m. (ET)

Team USA’s Kayla Harrison named First Winner of Inspiration Award
Olympic Gold Medalist Honors Her Coach, Jim Pedro Sr. With Gold Ring


LONDON-- Aug 10, 2012 – Team USA’s Kayla Harrison, winner of the nation’s first Olympic gold medal in judo, received the first Inspiration Award from the U.S. Olympic Committee and Olympic licensee O.C. Tanner.

2012 Olympic Inspiration Award RingAs part of the honor, Harrison will present her mentor and coach James “Big Jim” Pedro Sr. with a 14K gold commemorative Olympic ring to honor and thank him for inspiring her Olympic journey. Pedro, Sr., is the U.S. Olympic Judo assistant coach to his son and Olympic Judo Head Coach, Jimmy Pedro of Team FORCE in Wakefield, Mass.

Harrison was chosen by O.C. Tanner and the U.S. Olympic Committee from more than 20 athlete tributes for her inspirational story of overcoming adversity to claim the top spot on the podium in the 78 kg. division at the Olympic Games in London last week. She is the first of three winners of the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award.

"No matter how many times I've lost, given up or felt like my world was over, he [Pedro] stood by me and pushed me to be the best possible version of myself," said Kayla Harrison as part of her inspiration story submission. "He made me a strong, confident woman -- on and off the mat. For that I am forever grateful."

Kayla Harrison and James Pedro Sr.Pedro helped lead Harrison to become the first American to ever win an Olympic gold medal in the sport of judo. Harrison will, in turn, present gold to Pedro in the coming weeks through the Inspiration Award -- a 14k gold ring that features a laurel crown and the words "Inspire, Olympian and Mentor" in Greek. The memento is an acknowledgment of those who may not receive Olympic medals of their own, but who inspire others to attain Olympic glory.

"The Inspiration Award gets to the root of the success of U.S. Olympians -- their believers and supporters," said Peter Zeytoonjian, USOC Managing Director of Consumer Products and Licensing. "The USOC is pleased to honor those who support our Olympic heroes and thanks O.C. Tanner for its support of U.S. athletes and their mentors. Kayla's story is an inspiration to us all."

The two remaining winners of the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award will be selected by a public vote on the "Appreciate Great Work" Facebook page (Facebook.com/AppreciateGreatWork). From now through the end of the London 2012 Olympic Games on Aug. 12, the public is encouraged to read the athletes' stories and vote for the ones they deem to be the most inspirational. The two U.S. Olympic athletes who receive the most Facebook votes will each receive the O.C. Tanner Inspiration Award that they can present to their mentors.

O.C. Tanner also invites the public to vote for U.S. Paralympic athletes' stories of inspiration on the "Appreciate Great Work" Facebook page beginning Wednesday, Aug. 29 through Sunday, Sept. 9. A total of three U.S. Paralympic athletes will be selected to receive the Inspiration Award to share with their mentors.
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