Judo star overcomes abuse, becomes Olympian
WAKEFIELD, Mass. (WHDH) -- Judo star Kayla Harrison, who trains in Wakefield, had to overcome more obstacles than most to make it to the Olympics.
Harrison suffered a beat down that took everything from her, except her sport.
“We saw her at the lowest of low,” said Jimmy Pedro.
Harrison moved to Wakefield when she was 16 following three years of sexual abuse from her former judo coach in Ohio. The now 21 year old didn’t want to stop training, but she was emotionally tattered. She had even contemplated suicide.
“Feeling so wrong,” said Harrison. “Feeling like I was doing something wrong, like I was the bad guy.”
“Very, very torn down, huge sense of guilt feeling, worthlessness, selflessness, really just didn’t know where to turn or what to do with her life,” said Jimmy Pedro.
Turning to the Pedro’s is how she healed.
Harrison’s family was still in Ohio, so world-renowned judoka Jimmy Pedro and his father, Jimmy senior, put the pieces back together.
“Jimmy got me back into school so I was doing online school and he took me to Wakefield high and I did some classes there so I could have a normal experience. I started going to therapy and kind of fixing myself on the inside,” said Harrison.
“It wasn’t easy. We got her a lot of outside help. We had a lot of long discussions with her about how to pick herself up,” said Jimmy Pedro.
Together the Pedro’s convinced Harrison to testify against her abuser.
“She didn’t want people to think bad about her and by explaining to her that if she didn’t do that she couldn’t end that and then it would bother her the rest of her life,” said Jimmy Pedro senior.
Her ex-coach pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 10 years in prison.
Meanwhile, Harrison is a contender for an Olympic gold medal after fighting so hard to keep the love of her sport and her spirit alive.
“It made me who I am today. I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I wouldn’t wish for that to happen to anyone, but I know that I can do anything. I know that I can make it through any practice. I know that there is nothing out there that is going to be harder than what I’ve gone through,” said Harrison.
Harrison will compete on Thursday and attempt to become the first American woman to win a gold medal in the event’s history.