GREENWICH, Conn. Kayla Harrison has been on a whirlwind victory tour since returning with the first U.S. gold medal in judo from the 2012 London Olympics. And she was thrilled to share her story and demonstrate her sport for nearly 50 spectators at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich on Thursday.
Harrison is trying to catch up to her new-found fame as an Olympic gold medalist, meeting fans across the country and appearing on TV shows.
Weve done about everything you can think of. We even had a cake made for us by the [TV chef] Cake Boss, Harrison said. I used to wake up every day at 5 a.m. for training, and now I wake up every day at 5 a.m. for hair and makeup. Its crazy.
Knowing that she will forever be mentioned as a gold medalist is strange for the 22-year-old.
Its so funny because all my heroes have been Olympic medalists, Harrison said. Now to realize that I am one it just hasnt sunk in yet. It doesnt seem real.
In addition to judo demonstrations by Harrison and fellow Olympians Travis Stevens and Marti Malloy, the Bruce Museum offered Olympic-themed craft activities to the children.
Harrisons journey to Olympic glory started with the horror of sexual abuse by her former judo coach at the age of 15. After she confided in a friend, Aaron Handy (now her fiancé), the coach was exposed and sentenced to 10 years in prison.
She moved from Ohio to Boston and thrived under her new coach, Jim Pedro. Now six years later, she is an Olympic gold medalist and spreading her story as a survivor.
Out of all of this what I want the most is people especially [abuse] victims to realize that there is a rainbow after the rain, she said. And hopefully I can get my story out there and help change someones life.
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