2012: In a year marked by many victories, one made history at the Olympics

By Ernest Pund | Jan. 02, 2013, 1:26 a.m. (ET)

This was a moment that changed our sport and much, much more.

Kayla Harrison won the gold medal at the Olympic Games in London. She embraced her coach and mentor, Jimmy Pedro, and then carried our nation’s flag above her shoulders, creating an iconic image of victory.

This was the United States’ first Olympic gold medal in judo, an historic event for the sport in this country – an elusive possible had become reality. This was also a defining moment of a young woman who’d emerged from sexual abuse by a former coach. Her victory raised our awareness, dragged a terrible crime from the shadows, moved us in a spiritual, lasting way and made our children safer.

We all knew Kayla could take it all, and she did.

By her side and having just won a bronze medal was teammate Marti Malloy, who’d been on a steep ascent for over a year up the international ranks toward the Olympics. Her victory was something of an upset among many in judo at this Olympic Games, but it was unquestionably deserved. This was the first time in decades that the United States had taken multiple Olympic medals in judo, further moving our nation toward a sense of ‘the possible’ – this can be done.

Travis Stevens fought with inspiring strength and skill that wowed anyone who watched. Many believed he would reach the podium, some thought that he was robbed by close calls. We look forward to his continued presence and return to the Olympics in Rio.

Kyle Vashkulat did not win a match but as one of the youngest members of a young team, he has potential and we look forward to his return.

Officiating at the Olympic Games representing the United States was Robert Fukuda, head coach at the Western Idaho Judo Institute in Fruitland, Idaho. His expertise and experience are a tremend ous value to the sport.

Demonstrating terrific faith in our athletes and future, hundreds rallied to support the London Medal Fund that rewarded our three top Olympic athletes with prize money for their performance. In addition to rewarding these athletes, the fund was designed to demonstrate that future champions could count on our support.

By Ernest Pund, USA Judo Communications