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After a long break: New Challenges for Kayla Harrison

After a long break, following her fantastic Olympic title obtained in London last summer in the women's -78kg weight category, Kayla Harrison (USA) is back on track and participated in the Pan-American Open, Montevideo 2013, last weekend. 

First Steps in Uruguay
Currently the first Judo US Olympic Champion in the history of her country, has set herself new challenges, one of those being to now fight in the women's -70kg. And that is what she successfully did in Uruguay, even if she lost against the 2009 World Champion and London Olympic bronze medallist, Yuri ALVEAR (COL), in the final of the tournament. This first silver medal in the category already offers a 64th place in the world ranking list to the young lady, who still is the world leader in the women's -78kg.

                                 Kayla Harrison in action, during the London Olympic Games
Educational Program
Following the Pan-american Open in Montevideo, she will take part in the Pan-American Open in Buenos Aires this weekend. In the meantime, on Tuesday March 19th, she visited a school (Lyceum Dojo 55) in Montevideo, where she was accompanied by the Ju-Jitsu World Champion and also one of the 'Champions for Peace' (Peace and Sport organization), Gregory Vallarino.
                                   The Olympic Champion, surrounded by hundreds of kids in Uruguay
The aim of the visit was to share her experience and the process to win a medal that she had followed up through London 2012, with students who are participating in a social project that concerns more than 100 young people. Kayla explained that, "It was a very long road, where strong objectives and goals had to be fixed." For about 30 minutes Kayla attended a class where she was interviewed by students and signed numerous autographs in the courtyard of the high school.
The Champion also declared that, "The enthusiasm of the students was not affected by the language barrier. No matter what language you speak, if you can demonstrate your enthusiasm, everybody is happy to spend time with you and understand the message that you want to share."
After the visit, Kayla Harrison declared the the IJF media department, "Yes, we visited a school here in Uruguay and it was fantastic! We took pictures, I signed some autographs for the children. I got to visit their dojo and see how much they really love judo. I also had the opportunity to share my story and have a question and answer session with some of the kids. It was very fun and the kids are very enthusiastic! I challenged them all to get out and try judo! It was also a very rewarding experience for me. Although these kids do not have much, they have a passion for living and learning. And sometimes, that is taken for granted. All we need in life is passion and a little guidance."
Every child should practice judo
This visit was also a good opportunity for the Olympic Champion, to remember her childhood, when she started judo and to answer a few questions.  
IJF: Why should every child practice judo in his/her life, which social or physical benefits you underline?
Kayla Harrison: Every child should practice judo for many reasons! Not only is it good for your body, but it is good for your mind and your character. Judo builds confidence, discipline, respect, and many other attributes that will help you in all areas of life.
IJF: What did you most enjoy when practicing judo as a child?
KH: For me judo was always fun. No matter what happened in school, at home, or anywhere else when I came to judo practice thats all I had to focus on. I loved it!
                                         Kayla Harrison and Gregory Vallarino in front of the students
IJF: If you inspire children through judo toady, what is your main message to them in social terms? 
KH: My biggest message is this: There will always be challenges in life; There will always be road blocks, but if we believe in ourselves, we can accomplish anything! I am living proof of that!
IJF: When did you start judo?
KH: I started judo when I was 6 years old. 
IJF: What is your best souvenir as a child practicing judo?
KH: For me, the memories and friends that I have made through judo are far greater than any trophy or medal I have won.

A model for the kids
IJF: How would you like today or after your sports career to be involved in educational projects?
KH: I hope to use this platform to bring judo to the masses and to help educate the world on the beauty of the judo way of life.  
IFJ: You are now Olympic Champion and World Champion. What did those medals change in your life? 
KH: Life has been quite different for me lately! After London I rested from training at only did judo for fun. I travelled a lot teaching judo in all big cities in the country and speaking about judo. I am writing a book with someone about my life and I have been doing a lot of media and a lot of press related things for judo and the sport of judo! 
IJF: Last year, the Veterans World Champ took place in Miami. This year, the Cadets World Champ and a Grand Prix will be held in the US. Do you feel that the people's perception has changed concerning judo in the US?
KH: Yes. I think that judo is growing in the US and it is now a sport that people have interest in. Its not on a high level yet, but I believe in ten years, the USA may be a power house in international judo.
SOURCE: ijf.org

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