What a fighter! U.S. star overcomes years of sexual abuse at hands of her ex-coach to win America’s first EVER judo gold medal

11.27.2012

By Daily Mail Reporter

  • Defeats British fighter Gemma Gibbons, who took the silver medal
  • Says ‘this is my purpose’ after winning gold medal
  • Harrison, 22, endured years of sexual abuse by former coach, Daniel Doyle
  • Revealed her abuse ordeal in wake of Penn State sex scandal

Kayla Harrison stunned the world with a gold medal in judo – a first for the U.S. – in an incredible show of strength for a champion who suffered years of sexual abuse at the hands of her childhood coach.

Miss Harrison became the first American in the sport to earn the Olympics’ highest honour with a dramatic win over Great Britain’s Gemma Gibbons.

The gold medal caps as extraordinary journey for the 22-year-old who hails from Middletown, Ohio, and who in 2007 put her former coach behind bars for sexually abusing her as a teen.

 

‘I was almost disheartened by my country, to hear that kids at Penn State were protesting for [Paterno] but not for the victims,’ she told Fox Sports.

‘What kind of world do I live in? Are students really doing that? When that happened, when the victim was that far away [from people’s minds], I was in shock.’

Harrison was abused between the ages of 14 and 16 by her childhood coach, Daniel Doyle, whose father owned the judo school in Ohio where she first learned the sport.

Doyle, who was 16 years her senior, formed close relationships with her family, joining them on vacations and chaperoning Harrison on tournaments that took her to Venezuela, Estonia and Russia to compete.

Harrison said she felt ‘brainwashed’ and wanted to please her coach, so they started a sexual relationship.

She told Fox Sports that she believed she would marry Doyle when she turned 18.

She confided her secret in a judo friend, who told her mother, who immediately contacted police.
Glory: The gold medal win capped a long and arduous journey for the 22-year-old

Glory: The gold medal win capped a long and arduous journey for the 22-year-old

He pleaded guilty to having a sex with Miss Harrison and admitted that on one occasion he videotaped a sexual encounter.

‘I can’t describe how I felt,’ she told the Los Angeles Times. ‘I think I cried pretty much every night.’

She testified against him and he is now serving the maximum 10-year prison sentence.

When released, Doyle will have to register as a sex offender.

‘Going through that, I felt so guilty,’ Harrison said. ‘This is the man that I thought I loved. And I just told on him and I put him in jail.’

But she turned the tragedy to triumph when her mother sent her to Wakefield, Massachusetts to train with Jimmy Pedro Jr., who won Olympic bronze medals in 1996 and 2004, and his father, Big Jim.

She moved into a house with 10 other athletes but struggled with the transition.

‘She was an emotional wreck,’ Pedro Jr told the Boston Herald. ‘She truly believed that this guy loved her, so she had been brainwashed to think that was the case.’

Together, the Pedros helped rebuild her confidence and she got past bouts of suicidal thoughts, and, in spite of her lowest points, she dragged herself to training every day.

Pedro Jr, who has spent a lifetime chasing Olympic gold himself, gave Harrison the same pep talk over and over again today before the match.

‘All day long, I was telling her: “There’s one girl in front of you. That’s all we worry about is that one girl. Are you better than her? Are you stronger than her? Are you tougher than her? Yeah? Well, then, go beat her – because she’s in your way to be an Olympic champion.”

‘She heard that about 150 times today,’ he said.

‘As melodramatic as it sounds, it’s true. The Pedros saved my life and they changed my life,’ she told the Times. ‘I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to me if I had stayed there.’

Incredibly superstitious, Miss Harrison revealed that she wore the lucky socks that her grandmother gave her six years ago and played her lucky playlist prior to the match.

Source: Daily Mail – http://bit.ly/TjOMRj