Kayla Harrison Bringing Home Another Gold On Road To Olympics

By Ernest Pund | June 24, 2012, 6:47 p.m. (ET)

U.S. Olympic Judo Team Member Kayla Harrison Bringing Home Another Gold On Road To Olympics


June 24, 2012 – U.S. Olympic Team Member Kayla Harrison went 5-0 today at the European Cup in Prague, defeating the 2009 World Champion and a potential Olympic contender while climbing the podium to bring home her second gold medal in less than a month from a major international tournament.

Harrison (NYAC/TeamFORCE, Wakefield, Mass.) tore through the 78 kg brackets, defeating the 2009 World Champion from the Netherlands and German Heidi Wollert, a fighter Harrison could face across the mats in London later this summer.

"Today was a great day for Kayla who dominated the division by winning 4 of her 5 matches by ippon," commented U.S. Olympic Judo Coach Jimmy Pedro. An ippon in judo is the equivalent of a knockout in boxing, ending the match instantly with a perfect throw, pin, choke or armbar. "She looked extremely strong and this performance should reassure her that she is right on track for Olympic Gold in London. USA Judo is just 35 days away from a historical moment."

It was only two weeks ago that Harrison brought home another gold medal from a major international tournament, the Grand Slam Rio de Janeiro. These are among the last opportunities for fighters heading to the Olympics to build their confidence against other elites.

Harrison added her gold today to a silver medal captured yesterday in Prague by Teammate Marti Malloy, 57 kg. (USA Judo Training Site at San Jose State University, CA). This was Malloy’s first elite tournament since she was sidelined by a shoulder injury at a competition in February.

"The USA Judo Olympic Team had a fantastic performance in Prague," Pedro said. "Marti Malloy proved once again that she can contend with the best in the 57 kg division and beat two top-ten girls en route to the silver. This was a BIG event for Marti's confidence and she now knows her shoulder is 100 percent and she is back in top form."

Teammate Travis Stevens 81 kg. (NYAC/TeamFORCE, Wakefield, Mass.), didn’t reach the podium but “turned in a workman's performance today and accomplished our goal of getting him a bunch of tough matches prior to London,” Pedro said. “Travis went 4 - 2 today with his only losses coming by way of shidos (minor penalties) against the top 81 kg. players in the world. He will continue to get stronger and stronger from now until the Olympics after sitting from December until May due to injuries.” Three of the four matches that Stevens won were by ippon today. He also brought home a silver medal from the recent Grand Slam Rio.

Harrison, who became a World Champion in Tokyo in 2010, began her 5-0 climb today in Prague by pinning German Miriam Dunkel for ippon with sankaku gatame (triangle pin). In her second match, Kayla defeated German Ulrike Scherbarth with a throw for yuko and then another pin for ippon.

In her third match, Kayla faced 2009 World Champion Marhinde Verkerk of Netherlands who defeated Harrison in their last meeting in Abu Dhabi. Kayla avenged her previous loss by throwing Verkerk for wazari and then pinning her for ippon.

Kayla won her fourth match on split referee flags after running the clock in both the regular round and overtime golden score against German Kerstin Thiele. That put Kayla in the final, gold medal round where she faced Germany’s Heidi Wollert, ranked 8th when judo teams qualified for the Olympics almost two months ago. Harrison was ranked 4th at the time but has since climbed to the No. 2 position on the International Judo Federation roster. Kayla could easily face Wollert again at the Olympics in London. Today, Kayla threw Wollert with uchimata for ippon to take the top spot on the podium.

To see complete results and brackets, got to EUROCUP.