FRANCE – Kayla Harrison didn’t have the day she wanted. She entered the 2011 World Judo Championships in Paris intent on winning her second consecutive world title, but instead will bring home a bronze medal.
The title went to France’s Audrey Tcheumeo, whom Harrison fought in the semi-final match in front of 12,000 French judo fans. Tcheumeo took the lead half-way through the match and held on to the time limit to win.
“The French girl looked good and earned her world title today,” Harrison said of Tcheumeo. However, Coach Jimmy Pedro, the 1999 world champion and two-time Olympic bronze medalist, sees it a little differently.
“Although she had to settle for the bronze, she knows she can beat one of her biggest nemeses, Tchuemo from France,” Coach Pedro said. “In fact, if it wasn’t for some bad refereeing, she would have been in the world final again.”
In the bronze medal match, Harrison dominated Marhinde Verkerk of the Netherlands, who is the 2009 World Champion. Harrison maintained firm control throughout the match, catching the Dutch woman about half way through with a minor inside reap to score. The American held the lead to win the bronze medal.
Harrison opened her day with a bye and defeated Canadian Catherine Roberge in her first match. She then defeated Lkhamdegd Purevjargal of Mongolia and Hitomi Ikeda of Japan to get into the medal rounds.
Harrison is no stranger to the medal podium. She took gold at the 2008 Junior World Championships and silver at the same event in 2009. Last year, she won gold at the Senior World Championships, and is poised to represent the United States in the 2012 Olympic Games.
“Kayla proved once again today that she truly is world class,” Coach Pedro said. “There’s no doubt she’s emotionally and psychologically ready to win the Olympics. In fact, this bronze will just make her hungry to prove herself as the world’s best in London.”
Harrison was a little less enthusiastic, but still determined.
“The difference between me and the other girls on the podium is that I consider this a failure,” Harrison said. “I will work harder now to become the first-ever Olympic champion from America. Failure is my fuel.”
“I am so proud of Kayla’s performance today,” Coach Pedro said. “Kayla proved once again today that she truly is world class.”
Kayla added that she would like to thank her teammates, coaches Jimmy Pedro and Jim Pedro Sr., her sponsors, the NYAC and NeoCell, and the USA Judo staff. “Without all of them, none of this would have been possible,” Harrison said.
About Kayla Harrison
Kayla Harrison won the world judo championships on September 9, 2010 in Tokyo, Japan, making her only the fourth world champion from the United States. Her success in 2010 includes one grand prix gold medal and five world cup gold medals. Originally from Middletown, Ohio, she trains under the direction of 1999 World Judo Champion Jimmy Pedro, and his father Jim Pedro Sr., at the Pedro Judo Center in Wakefield, Mass. She also receives support from USA Judo, the New York Athletic Club and is sponsored by NeoCell, Mizuno, Hatashita Sports and Cut Right LLC. Her website is www.kaylaharrison.com.