Q&A With Kayla Harrison: Olympic Golden Girl Returns to Competition
Judo superstar Kayla Harrison returns to competition after winning our nation’s first Olympic Gold Medal in the sport last summer in London. She’s been training in Japan and headlines a big USA Judo team of elites fighting at the Continental Open in Uruguay March 16 and 17. Harrison, 78kg (NYAC/Team FORCE, Wakefield, Mass.), paused for just a moment recently to answer a few questions from USA Judo. Following is a Q&A with our Olympic Gold Medalist.
USA Judo: What is your goal at this particular tournament?
Kayla: This tournament is really a "let’s get back in the saddle again" tourney. It is meant to shake off the rust and start preparing for the World Championships in Rio this August.
USA Judo: Why the Continental Open in Uruguay?
Kayla: I started training again tentatively in January. So, three months in, seems like a good time to test out and flex my fighting skills. I will be in decent enough shape but I won't be peeking for this event. My coaches, Jimmy and Big Jim are ultimately in charge of my schedule. I trust them to know what is best for me and my job is to ‘go and do!’
USA Judo: What major tournaments are you targeting?
Kayla: The main goal is always the Olympics and World Championships. I am eager to add another title to my name this August.
USA Judo: What has your training program been like and where is it headed?
Kayla: Because I am still traveling and speaking almost every weekend, training has come on slowly. I do judo every day and go to my strength trainer four days a week. I am also running a lot more these days because I am on the road much more. Eventually, we will gear back up to two-a-day judo and strength training and running almost every day. But four years is a long time and again, the ultimate goal is always the Olympic Championships.
USA Judo: What do you think of the new International Judo Federation rules?
Kayla: The rules are definitely going to take some getting used to. I have not had the chance to fight under them yet, but I can tell you in practice I am focusing very much on not getting frustrated. Re-teaching yourself takes time. Another reason for choosing this tournament is to try out the new rules and see how I do.
USA Judo: How does it feel, getting back into competition after standing on the
highest podium in the world?
Kayla: Honestly, I am very excited to be back on the mat! I took some time off after London and have been traveling and speaking and doing all sorts of fun stuff, but nothing, nothing compares to the thrill of victory! I can't tell you how pumped I am to be training again and doing what I love. I plan on making the most of the next four years and truly enjoying the journey. Not many people can say they get to wake up every morning and live out their dream. And standing on that podium – there is no greater feeling in life. I will work relentlessly for the next four years to give myself the best chance to get to feel that feeling again, because it is so worth it.
USA Judo: What has life been like as the nation's first Olympic Gold Medalist in
Kayla: Life has been crazzzzyyyy! From meeting the President and VP, to attending the country music awards, to speaking to kids and teaching clinics ... life has been a whirlwind! And I wouldn't trade it for anything in the world! I am extremely honored and humbled to be America's first gold medalist and I intend to use this platform to bring judo to everyone, and to help change people’s lives, the way that judo has changed mine. Whether that is through my foundation, a judo lesson, or just signing a picture for a young child, I consider it an honor and a privilege.