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Athlete Spotlight: Kayla Harrison

By Paul D. Bowker | April 30, 2012, 12:30 a.m. (ET)

Kayla Harrison

Kayla Harrison will enter the London 2012 Olympic Games as the brightest medal contender for the United States in judo. If she wins gold, she would be the first U.S. woman to win an Olympic judo title. She has medaled at the last two World Judo Championships, including gold in 2010.

Since winning bronze at the 2011 World Championships, Harrison has harvested gold around the world and defeated the 2008 Olympic gold medalist. Among her achievements: winning World Cup gold in Budapest, Hungary, Grand Prix gold in Dusseldorf, Germany, and gold at the Pan American Games. At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Harrison was a training partner for Olympic medalist Ronda Rousey at 70 kg. Harrison had won the U.S. Olympic Trials at 78 kg, but the United States did not qualify at that weight class.

Bet you didn’t know this: Harrison, who has trained with two-time Olympic medalist Jimmy Pedro at Pedro’s Judo Center in Wakefield, Mass., since age 16, aspires to be a firefighter once her judo days are over. She is at the top of a candidate list in nearby Marblehead, Mass., where Harrison lives, according to the Boston Globe.

Claim to fame: Harrison became the first U.S. woman in 46 years to win a judo world championship when she won gold in the 78 kg weight class at the 2010 World Judo Championships in Tokyo.

Born: 1990

Sport: Judo

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Kayla Harrison