Kayla Harrison repeats as Olympic judo champion
Four years after becoming the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in judo, Kayla Harrison has successfully defended her title.
It just didn’t play out exactly the way she visualized it.
Leading up to the Rio Games, Harrison said that she has been taking time to visualize herself winning gold in Rio and “nine times out of ten” she imagined herself fighting her Brazilian rival, Mayra Aguiar.
But in the semifinal – one win away from a Gold Medal Match that would have delighted Brazilians in the crowd and judo fans around the world – Aguiar was defeated by France’s Audrey Tcheumeo. It set up an intriguing final-round bout between the world No. 1 (Harrison) and No. 2 (Tcheumeo) in the weight class.
Harrison was dominant in the early rounds, winning her first three matches with an ippon. Her first two bouts ended with pinning Harrison her opponent, including a first-round victory over a Chinese judoka that took just 43 seconds. She then forced her semifinal opponent, Slovenia’s Anamari Velensek, to tap out after applying a devastating armbar.
Tcheumeo would give Harrison her biggest challenge of the tournament. Neither judoka was able to get a score on the other for nearly four full minutes; instead, it looked like it would come down to penalties. Harrison held the edge on shidos with the clock approaching zero, but then she got Tcheumeo on the ground and was again able to get the armbar, which forced Tcheumeo to tap out with six seconds left.