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Kayla Harrison      

First American Judo Olympic Gold Medalist; Founder of the Fearless Foundation

Kayla Harrison became the third U.S. player ever to win the Junior World Championships in 2008 after going undefeated to win the 78kg title in Bangkok. Harrison, who moved up from 63kg to 78kg in 2008, won the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for Judo that year, but was unable to compete at the Games as Team USA had not qualified the division. In 2009, Harrison became the second U.S. athlete ever to compete in two Junior World finals where she won a silver medal.

Harrison made her mark on the senior international level in 2010 when she became the first U.S. woman to win a World Championship in 26 years, going undefeated in five matches to win gold. Ranked No. 1 in the world rankings, Harrison defeated No. 2 Audrey Tcheumeo of France by ippon in the women’s 78 kg. gold-medal bout at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Harrison is the first U.S. judoka to win back-to-back Olympic medals of any kind and just the second American to win two Olympic medals in judo (joining coach Jimmy Pedro, who won two bronzes).

Upon retiring from the Olympics, Harrison used her platform to start the Fearless Foundation, which sheds light on child sexual abuse and helps survivors through education and sport. Her company, KHE, Inc., has assumed control of organizing and operating the U.S. national championships for five years beginning in 2018. And although she has retired from Olympic competition, her fighting days are not over. Harrison has signed a contract to compete in mixed martial arts in the World Series of Fighting.

Speech Topics


Overcoming the challenges of sexual assault and depression

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