Kayla Harrison survived sexual abuse as a teen. Now she is a two-time Olympic gold medalist

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“No one will break me,” Olympic gold medalist Kayla Harrison said before going to Rio.


But the judo champion wasn’t just talking about on the mat. Harrison, a gold medalist in London in 2012, survived sexual abuse by her coach when she was a teenager and came back to become a champion.

“There's nothing in this life that's going to be harder than what I've been through already,” Harrison said in an interview with ABC News before she competed in Rio.


At the age of 16, Harrison revealed that she had been abused by her coach, Daniel Doyle, starting when she was 13 years old. Doyle, who had been a family friend, was later sentenced to spend 10 years in jail, according to The Washington Post.

“Sexual abuse is such a difficult subject because it does things to the mind and to the development of a young person that you can't really see,” Harrison told ABC News. “There are no scars on me, there's no injury, you can't physically see that I'm wounded. But when you're 10 or 12 years old, and you go through something like that, it changes you. It changes you as a person. It leaves scars all over your heart.”

Harrison said she hit “rock bottom” and “hated my life.” Her mother decided to move her to a whole new training facility, in Boston. That’s when she began working with her current coach, Jimmy Pedro. Pedro recalled to The Washington Post that Harrison ran away and even climbed up to a roof to kill herself.

Harrison fought her way back through judo—and won the gold in London. But it hasn’t been easy since then either. She underwent reconstructive knee surgery in 2013, and she had to increase her training.


“No one was going to take it away from me,” Harrison said Thursday after winning. “The misery, the pain, I had to have done it for something. It had to have been worth it.”

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