For 20-year-old Kayla Harrison (
“I’ve been training for this for a long long time and I’ve been dreaming of this since I was a little girl,” Harrison said after winning the 78kg title at the World Championships on Thursday in
Coached by the last American to win a World title in 1999, Jimmy Pedro (
|Kayla Harrison receives her gold medal... and the $6,000 prize check.|
“It was Kayla’s time. She’s coming off four gold medals at World Cups. When the draw came out I said it that day that she’s gonna come through and we’ve been putting in her head that she’s gonna be the World Champ,” said Coach Pedro. “She was ready and we all believed in her. She went out there knowing she could win and that’s a big part of having success.”
In the quarter-finals,
After winning her match against Lebrun, Harrison had a three hour break before taking on 2009 World silver medalist Maryna Pryshchepa (UKR) who Harrison threw for a yuko score two minutes into the match. During the third minute,
A four-time World Cup Champion and gold medalist at the 2008 Junior Worlds, Harrison fought Mayra Aguiar (BRA) in the final.
|Kayla Harrison throws Mayra Aguiar to win gold!|
Two of the rising stars of the sport, Harrison and 19-year-old Aguiar are both World Cup and Junior World medalists who have fought twice this year with Aguiar winning their match at the Pan American Championships in April and
The match started slowly with both athletes fighting for grips and
As the five-minute regulation time ended, neither athlete was able to score and the match was sent to Golden Score (sudden death overtime).
Nearly two minutes into Golden Score,
“I wasn’t sure if I was going to win and I was nervous because we were in Golden Score and I was down by a shido, so I had to do something,” she said. “So I just went for it and it worked.”
After defeating five players that included World Cup, World Championship and Olympic medalists,
“I don’t think I had the best day of my life, but I went out to win and that’s what matters,” she said.
Following the match, Pedro praised both
“In the end she came through. Without question it’s deserved. She puts in time, pays dues. She
|Kayla Harrison shows off her gold medal to Coach Jimmy Pedro and USA Judo Director of Athlete Performance Eddie Liddie|
never skips practice, always makes lifting sessions, wants to do whatever it takes. She’s truly deserves to be a World Champion,” Pedro said. “She’s appreciative of everything, deserving of everything, the type of person you want to help reach her goals.”
In addition to the achievement of winning a World title,
“This is a great milestone for USA Judo and key for helping Kayla qualify for
Earlier in the day, 20-year-old Kyle Vashkulat (Glenville, N.Y. / NYAC / USA Judo National Training Site at the Jason Morris Judo Center) earned one of the day’s greatest upsets when he threw 2007 World Champion Luciano Correa (BRA) for ippon during his first-round match after trailing by two penalties.
“It was a little overwhelming. When I threw him I didn’t know if it was for ippon or not and after I saw it was, it was kind of an uncomfortable position to celebrate. Besides, it was only the first round. I didn’t want to be that guy who goes crazy and I knew I still had a tough match with the Cuban ahead,” Vashkulat said.
In the next round, Vashkulat faced 2007 World bronze medalist Oreydis Despaigne (CUB).
“[The first round] was a little confidence booster, but every match is its own thing and you have to focus on the next one. I’d fought the Cuban before and I knew it was going to be hard,” he said.
Vashkulat held his own against Despaigne, but was thrown for a waza-ari score. After escaping a pin attempted, Vashkulat was thrown again for ippon.
“Every year you hope to medal. Next year the goal is always to try to come back and do better than before. I’m still kinda young so I have time to develop and get better each time,” Vashkulat said.
Also competing for the first time at the Worlds in the 100kg division, Shintaro Higashi (
Three other first-time World Team members also were eliminated in the opening rounds.
Suzie Rizek (
Conor Driscoll (
Toni Geiger (
Also competing in the +78kg division, two-time World Team member Nina Cutro-Kelly (
Competition continues on Friday with the men’s 81kg and 90kg divisions and the women’s 70kg division.
The following athletes will be competing on Friday:
Travis Stevens (
Jose Bencosme (
Jake Larsen (
Garry St. Leger (
Katie Sell (
Laquinta Allen (