PUERTO LA CRUZ, VENEZUELA – World Judo Champion Kayla Harrison continued her medals rampage, winning a silver at the World Cup in Venezuela this weekend.
Harrison, who is the reigning world judo champion in the women’s -78 kg weight division, trains with Team FORCE in Wakefield, Mass., and is originally from Middletown, Ohio. She entered the tournament ranked number two in the world.
She received a bye in the first round and faced Diana Chala of Ecuador in the second round. Harrison threw her opponent for a victory in less than a minute, using a combination sleeve wheel throw to outside reaping throw.
In her next match, she fought Marylise Levesque of Canada. It was a hard-fought match and Harrison won thanks to the Canadian accumulating three penalties.
In the final, Harrison fought rival Amy Cotton of Canada. The two had faced one another one week earlier in Miami, with Harrison coming out on top. However, the gold would belong to Cotton this time, thanks to Harrison receiving two questionable penalties during the match.
“I’m disappointed,” Harrison said. “However, I will use this as motivation and continue to prepare myself for the World Championships and the 2012 Olympics.”
Harrison’s coach, Jimmy Pedro, a former world champion and two-time Olympic medalist, was more direct.
“For any other U.S. athlete a silver medal in a world cup would be a great feat, but for someone like Kayla who sets high expectations for herself, it is a little disappointing,” Pedro said.
He added that every single referee call in the final went against Harrison and that he felt at worst, the match should have been sent into overtime. However, Pedro put the tournament in perspective.
“In the grand scheme of things this event does not mean a thing to Kayla,” Pedro said. “The World Championships and Olympic Games are the only events that matter right now, and Kayla needs to use all of these matches as lessons to improve for the big events.”
Harrison’s next tournament will be the 2011 World Judo Championships in August in Paris. There, she will be fighting to defend her 2010 world judo title.
Harrison wins gold in Miami
MIAMI – Many people like to take off work on their birthday. Kayla Harrison, who turned 21 Sunday, went to work in a big way, winning a gold medal at judo’s World Cup Miami.
“I am so proud of Kayla,” her coach, Jimmy Pedro said. Pedro is a two-time Olympic medalist and the 1999 World Judo Champion.
Harrison, who trains with Team FORCE in Wakefield, Mass., opened competition by defeating Israel’s Omri Kenyon with an arm lock. She then fought Bishpo Sommerfield of Canada, throwing her twice to win the pool.
In the semi-final, she faced Catherine Roberge, also of Canada. Harrison took an early lead thanks to Roberge’s penalties, before scoring with a throw. Harrison then pinned the Canadian, forcing her to submit.
In the final, she faced Amy Cotton, another Canadian.
“This was a hard match,” Harrison said. “She’d beaten me several times when I was younger.”
Harrison scored with a throw to take an early lead in the match, but the Canadian battled back to tie the match up. With 26 seconds left, Harrison took a commanding lead by scoring on a throw, and held on to win the match.
After the tournament, the crowd in attendance at the tournament sang “Happy Birthday” to Harrison, who turned 21 on the day of the tournament.
“It felt good to be on American soil and win here,” Harrison said. “I feel like my hard work is paying off. I’m going to continue the process and keep my head down and my mind on the prize.”
“Kayla is a true professional who takes every aspect of her training very seriously,” Jimmy Pedro said. “She earns every victory through preparation.” Harrison will next compete in the World Cup Isla de Margarita in Venezuela. A gold medal there will secure the number one spot in the world for Harrison. She is also preparing to defend her world title at the 2011 World Judo Championships in Paris this August.