Before Team USA’s Kayla Harrison, 22, won the gold in her judo weight division class last week, beating Gemma Gibbons of Great Britain and becoming the first American to win an Olympic gold medal in Judo, Harrison had already decided what every detail of her perfect day was going to look like.

“My coach is really big on visualization and positive thinking,” Harrison told Uinterview in our exclusive interview. “So every night before I go to bed, I take about ten minutes and I literally visualize the perfect day on August 2 in London for me. She told us about how she envisioned her victories, down to what she would be eating (“my oatmeal, banana, my apple juice”), the music she would be listening to (an unlikely pairing of George Strait and Eminem) and the mantra she would repeat to herself (“This is my day, this is my purpose.”)

Harrison reached the gold medal podium after a traumatic childhood marked by the sexual abuse of her first judo trainer, Daniel Doyle, who was later sent to prison for the crime while Harrison continued training with Jimmy Pedro, one of the most successful American judo competitors ever, after a brief hiatus.

Harrison, now an Olympic gold medalist, has come out on the other side of the ordeal. “I feel this huge swell of pride every time I see the American flag go up and hear the National Anthem,” she told us. “It really makes you realize that the name on the front [of the uniform] really is more important than the name on the back.”

 

For more Uinterview exclusives and stories on the 2012 London Olympics:

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Volleyball Player Jennifer Kessy On Trying Out Swimming

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Water Polo Captain Betsey Armstrong Talks Returning To Olympics

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Gold Medalist Nathan Adrian: ‘It’s And Honor’ To Swim Team USA

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympics Swimmer Brendan Hansen Lost His Olympic Gold Medal

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Diver Cassidy Krug Describes The Perfect Dive

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympic Volleyball Player Lindsey Berg Is ‘Honored’ To Be Named Captain

EXCLUSIVE: U.S. Olympian Nick McCrory Talks Diving With David Boudia

EXCLUSIVE: Olympian Jessica Hardy Swims 2.5 Hours Every Morning