Kayla Harrison, 2012 London Olympic Gold medalist in Judo to Speak at Assumption, Share Advice with Students

Jan 04, 2019

On Thursday, February 25, Assumption will welcome Kayla Harrison, the U.S.’s only Olympic Gold medalist (male or female) in judo. During her talk—which will take place at 4 p.m. in Assumption’s Hagan Hall of the Hagan Campus Center at 500 Salisbury St.— Harrison will discuss her experiences as a top athlete, her commitment to the sport of judo, and her personal fight and engagement against sexual abuse. She will also offer advice to all students with dreams of success in their careers.

 “Kayla Harrison has reached the highest level of accomplishments in judo but it is her personal struggle against sexual abuse that is to be admired, and how she transformed herself into a competitive world-class athlete,” said Eric Drouart, MBA director and business studies professor at Assumption. “This will be an extremely beneficial lesson and opportunity for current students to hear from Kayla.”

Harrison began judo at the age of six. As a teenager, she quickly distinguished herself as one of the top junior players in the country. Among other national titles, she won the Junior U.S. Open in 2003, 2004 and 2005. She was a two-time U.S. Senior National Champion before she turned 18 and she became only the third American to win the Junior World Championships in 2008. She won a Silver Medal at the Junior World Championships in 2009 and became Senior World Champion in 2010. She was only the fourth American ever to become World Champion. Since 2008, Harrison has been on a world podium every year, and the ultimate podium as an Olympic Champion in 2012.

Her competitive success masked an unimaginable personal struggle. At the age of 16, Kayla revealed the fact that she had been for years sexually abused by her coach. After the story came to light, Kayla moved from Ohio to Massachusetts to train with Jimmy Pedro, a two-time Olympic Bronze medalist and his father Jim Pedro, Sr. The Pedros became Kayla’s coaches and her surrogate family. When she arrived in Massachusetts, she entertained suicide, was depressed, hated judo and wanted to run away. Through discipline, tenacity, and the support of others, she fought through the pain both on and off the mat, transforming herself into a strong, confident, articulate young woman who has become a world-class athlete. Harrison created the Fearless Foundation to shine a light on the darkness that is child sexual abuse and to enrich the lives of survivors through education and sport, leading survivors to mastery and enabling them to flourish in all aspects of life.

The Assumption MBA/ Sports Business and Leadership Program prepares students to be ethical leaders in the sport management industry of tomorrow. Assumption’s ECT MBA Sport Business & Leadership is a 12-course program that provides students with the crucial management knowledge and real-world practical experience to evolve into values-based leadership roles in a myriad of sport enterprises. Assumption also offers a minor is sports management for its undergraduate students.