LONDON (CBS) – Every athlete competing in the Olympics has a coach that played an important role in their success. Strong relationships are formed by years of training and countless hours traveling to and from competitions.
The relationship Massachusetts resident, Judo competitor, and gold medal hopeful Kayla Harrison has with her coach Jimmy Pedro is so much more.
“Jimmy not only focused on me as an athlete and the potential I had, but me as a person,” said Harrison. “And that’s something I’ll never be able to repay him for.”
Harrison moved to Massachusetts to live and train with Pedro when she was 16 years old, at a troubling time in her life.
Harrison’s former judo coach had just pleaded guilty to sexually abusing her and was sentenced to ten years in prison.
“I think I cried pretty much everyday,” said Harrison. “I just remember my mother rented a U-Haul truck and we put all my stuff in the back and we drove up here and I changed my life.”
“Emotionally she was scarred and psychologically she was scarred,” said Pedro. “So there were certainly difficult times were she broke down and cried and wanted to run away.”
With Pedro’s help, Harrison made drastic improvements as a person and an athlete.
Since then she has gone on to win the World Championship in 2010 and is currently ranked 4th in the world.
In the six years since she first arrived at his gym in Wakefield, the relationship between the two has only gotten stronger.
“She’s like a daughter to me at this point,” said Pedro.
“I can take care of myself, I can do things for myself, I can standup for myself, and he gave me that,” said Harrison. “So it’s special…they are like my family.”
Harrison hopes to become the first American, male or female, to win an Olympic gold medal in judo. She competes on August 2nd.
Keesa McKoy, Victoria Price and Matthew Reed are students at Boston University, spending their summer internships reporting from the London Olympics for CBS Boston.