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Kayla Harrison

2012 Speaker

Kayla Harrison made history at the 2012 Olympics in London by winning the first Gold Medal by any American (man or woman) in the history of the sport of judo.  Her victory marks another step in a career characterized by success at the sport’s highest levels.  Harrison’s judo career has been undeniably impressive.  However, it is her perseverance through incredible personal struggles that is truly inspiring. 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. 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 happens to be a world-class athlete.  Her story has captivated audiences everywhere and has been featured in Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, USA Today, Time magazine, “The Today Show,” CNN and MSNBC, among many others.  Harrison was awarded the OC Tanner Inspiration award, The Women’s Sports Foundation’s Wilma Rudolph Courage award and will be named one of Glamour magazine’s Women of the Year for 2012.