Two-time Olympic judo champion retires to help abuse victims

Olympic judo star Kayla Harrison says she wants to spend her life helping victims of abuse like her through her Fearless Foundation.

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

Gold medallist Kayla Harrison from the US celebrates on the podium of the women's under-78kg judo contest at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro on August 11, 2016.

Punching people in the face can wait – right now American judo star Kayla Harrison plans to devote her life to helping victims of sexual abuse as she heads into retirement.  

The 26-year-old retained her Olympic judo crown on Thursday with victory over French opponent Audrey Tcheumeo in the under-78kg final, winning by submission with an armlock.

Harrison later confirmed she has received offers from the lucrative world of mixed martial arts, where her friend and former sparring partner Ronda Rousey has become a multi-millionaire and one of the most famous athletes in America.

For now though, Harrison plans to take her time, preferring instead to spend her life helping victims of sexual abuse through her Fearless Foundation.

"This is my legacy, I retire as a two-time Olympic champion, one of the greatest the sport has ever seen," said Harrison.

Harrison set up her foundation following her first Olympic success in London four years ago.

"It's no secret that I was sexually abused by my first coach and after the [London] Olympics I decided to set up a foundation to help survivors of sexual abuse through education, through a lot of different ways, through sport," said Harrison.

"There's a lot of stuff going on and it's just now in its infancy but I hope that at some point, being two-time Olympic champion is an amazing thing but the Fearless Foundation isn't about me: it's about helping people who need help."

Harrison did not however completely rule out following Rousey's path into mixed martial arts and the UFC cage.

"MMA: never say never but right now I'm just going to focus on being two-time Olympic champion and live in the moment," she said. "I'll decide about punching people in the face at a later date!"

Rousey earnt more than one million dollars in her first six UFC bouts, and Harrison revealed she had already been approached about switching to the octagon.