Kayla Harrison: Winning Gold Gave Me Platform To Speak Out

Harrison, the first American to win gold in judo, was sexually abused by her former coach

After Hours With Amy Lawrence
January 30, 2020 - 10:05 am
Kayla Harrison Olympics

USA Today Images


In 2012, Kayla Harrison became the first American – man or woman – to win gold in judo. After that, her life changed forever.

But that was only part of the reason why.

“My phone was ringing off the hook because of my story, and I had started speaking out about what happened to me right before the London Olympics,” Harrison said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “I was sexually abused by my first coach, and I shared that. Basically since I started sharing that story, I haven’t really shut up. My phone was ringing off the hook, and my life changed very drastically because I was given this platform. Winning a gold medal is amazing, and it was my goal for as long as I can remember. But it was also a very selfish thing. I was doing it for me. But it gave me the opportunity to be the difference in the world I want to see. I wanted to talk about it.”

Harrison, an Ohio native, won gold again at the 2016 Games in Rio. But she has continued to share her story and speak out against sexual violence.

“Our society has changed a lot since 2012,” she said. “But at that time, no one really talked about sexual abuse. We didn’t want to think about it. We didn’t want to see it. That happened in the boy scouts, but it didn’t happen necessarily [to us]. I’m not Catholic, so it doesn’t happen to us. But it does happen. That’s really how my life changed. I feel like I really found my purpose and I was given this platform.”