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Kayla Harrison is competing in judo at the 2012 London Summer Olympics for the USA.

In 2010, a then 21-year-old Kayla Harrison became the first U.S. woman to win a Judo World Championship in 26 years, going undefeated in her five matches. A year later she won bronze at the same tournament, firmly establishing herself as a force to be reckoned within the process. Harrison heads to London as the highest ranked U.S. judoka, regardless of gender and weight class. Though she's been to the Games before as a training partner, Harrison will be making her competitive Olympic debut in London.

Harrison was born in Middletown, Ohio and started up in judo at the age of 6 because her mom wanted her to learn self-defense, self-discipline and self-respect. Harrison fell in love with the competition aspect of it and has been doing judo ever since. At the age of 12 she was challenged by a past Olympic coach to make it to trials, and after qualifying she knew she had a real future in the sport.

A self-proclaimed "nice girl," Harrison isn't afraid to bash with the best of them on the mat. She calls it, "nothing personal, just business." As she explains further, "When I'm on the mat, I'll do whatever it takes. It's my job; it's what I'm supposed to do." Despite her toughness during a competition, she doesn't seek fights off the mat.

Kayla trains with two-time Olympic medal winner Jimmy Pedro, in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Pedro coached 2008 bronze medal winner Ronda Rousey, who has since gone on to a successful MMA career and is someone Harrison calls "an idol." When Rousey moved to Boston prior to Beijing she took Harrison under her wing and became her mentor and training partner. Rousey called the two's relationship, "frienemies," because they would go back and forth between fighting and being friends.

Harrison's judo career almost came to an end when she was 16. After years of torment, Harrison told a friend that her coach had been sexually abusing her. The friend in turn told Kayla's mother, who immediately pressed charges. Says Kayla, "At that time in my life judo was kind of up in the air. We didn't know if I was going to continue. It was a day-to-day battle. And my mother was concerned that if I didn't have judo in my life, that I would kind of derail. And she didn't want that to happen. So she and my father and I made the decision for me to move to Jimmy's. It was the best thing that ever could have happened to me; they're like my family now. They're just really good people."

All the girls on the U.S. judo team have "guy" nicknames. Though she's not a fan, Harrison has been christened Doug. Originally she was given the name Kyle, but after putting up a fight her teammates began calling her Kale. Says Harrison, "I thought that was stupid. And I just kept saying, no, no. That's not my name. And finally they said, 'well, you know what? You don't really get to pick your nickname. You're Doug.' And it kind of stuck, unfortunately."

Pets play a large role in Kayla's life, despite her not having any at her residence in Massachusetts. Her dog Buckeye — a mixture between golden retriever and chow — lives at home with her mother in Ohio, along with a couple of cats. Kayla has laid claim to her friend Pat's American bulldog Sarge, who she walks from time to time.

One of Kayla's favorite moves is the choke hold. As she explains, "there are two different ways you can choke someone. You can choke someone through the arteries or by an air choke, through their windpipe. When you get choked the way with your windpipe, you sort of feel it coming. You can't breathe. So that's usually when people tap. But when someone cuts off the blood supply to your brain, you usually don't know its coming and you can't feel anything. It takes about seven seconds before you pass out, which doesn't give you a chance to tap out." Kayla has passed out just once in her life, and woke up thinking she had been out for four hours when in actuality it had been just four seconds.


How tall is Kayla Harrison? How old is Kayla Harrison? Where does Kayla Harrison live? Find out here.

Age: 26 years old
Birthday: July 2, 1990
Height: 5' 8"
Weight: 172 lbs.
Nickname: Doug
Birthplace: Middletown, OH
Current Residence: Wakefield, MA

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