Olympics

After judo gold, Harrison might go for Rio in 2016

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The cruise may have to wait. Same with the potential job as a firefighter. (But not the wedding).

Kayla Harrison is having so much fun since becoming the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in judo that she is thinking about trying again in Rio de Janeiro in 2016.

''Nothing can prepare you for the Olympics. Nothing can prepare you for that feeling,'' said Harrison, who had vowed to retire if she won in London. ''I have no solid plans right now, but I think Rio is probably in the cards.''

Harrison, 22, became the first American woman to win the world championship in 2010. No U.S. judoka - man or woman - had ever won an Olympic gold medal before Harrison beat Britain's Gemma Gibbons to win the women's 78-kilogram and under division on Aug. 2 in London.

Harrison said before the Summer Games that those were her two career goals, and if she accomplished them she would retire from judo to see what else was out there - a cruise, a family, a job. But in a telephone interview on Friday, she said she hadn't anticipated how much fun it was to be the reigning Olympic champion.

''My life has changed a lot,'' she said a day after visiting with TV Cake Boss Buddy Valastro and a day before she was to be honored by the Boston Red Sox. ''It used to be that I woke up at 5 a.m. to go work out. Now I wake up at 5 a.m. for hair and makeup.''

Harrison, who was sexually abused by a former coach, also plans to lend her visibility to organizations that work with abuse victims. She said she is having trouble picking an organization to work with and is also considering starting her own.

''It's hard, because I want to support them all,'' said Harrison, an avid Twitter user who has been contacted on the social networking site by other sexual abuse victims who praise her for discussing her experience publicly.

''Lots and lots of people have'' reached out, she said. ''It makes it worth it when they say you're an inspiration for talking about it, or say they're seeking help.''

Harrison went straight from the Olympic podium to drug testing to the NBC set in London.

''I was already jumping up and down, and there's (Boston Celtics coach) Doc Rivers,'' said Harrison, an Ohio native who lives and trains in the Boston area.

Harrison also rang the opening bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange last week, and was honored before a New England Patriots exhibition game. She has been to Florida and New Jersey and; her hometown of Middletown, Ohio, is planning a day in her honor on Tuesday.

''Everything that is happening right now is icing on the cake,'' she said. ''Now the goal is to use it to inspire people, to inspire a generation, like the Olympic slogan says. I want to get the awareness of my sport out there, to make sure that we're able to capitalize on this moment.''

Harrison, who is engaged to training partner Aaron Handy, said she will take a few months off. She still does some training, but probably would not compete again until next fall.

And she is putting off the post-Olympic cruise she had hoped for.

''I have to schedule in time with my agent to go on a cruise,'' she said with a laugh. ''It's very, very weird to go from 100 mph to 20. ''

Tagged: Kayla Harrison

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