LONDON — Kayla Harrison gave the U.S. its first judo gold medal in Olympic history, taking the 78-kilogram title Thursday at the London Games.
Harrison defeated Britain’s Gemma Gibbons in a final she dominated from the start, getting a stronger grip on Gibbons and managing to throw her twice.
Harrison, a 22-year-old Middletown, Ohio, native who lives in suburban Boston, went to the medal podium determined not to cry. After one note of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” she succumbed.
A lifetime of emotions began pouring out as the former world champion thought about everything it took to get her to the top of the sport, which debuted as an Olympic event at the 1964 Tokyo Games, in the nation that invented judo.
“It’s not every four years. It’s every day,” Harrison said. “I’m just so honored to be America’s first gold medalist, and so happy to realize my dream. I’m America’s first gold medalist in judo — and always will be.”