Kayla Harrison topped Britain’s Gemma Gibbons in the final of the 78-kg judo competition Thursday afternoon, becoming the first American to ever win Olympic judo gold.
Fighting in her home country, Gibbons had loud and raucous support behind her, but it wasn’t enough. Harrison received one point early, and the two judokas went back and forth until Harrison took down Gibbons and scored once more with barely one minute remaining in the fight.
Harrison was able to play it safe the final 60 seconds, pointing to supporters in the crowd shortly after time expired. After hugging her opponent, she sprinted off the mat and fell into the arms of her coach, Jimmy Pedro, as David Bowie’s “Heroes” played throughout the arena.
It was the fourth fight of the day for the 22-year old Harrison, who topped the world’s top-ranked fighter, Brazil’s Mayra Aguiar, in the semifinal round.
The only previous Olympic medal earned by a U.S. female judoka was a bronze by Ronda Rousey at the 2008 Beijing Games. Women’s Judo has been included in the Olympics since 1992.