You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share
Jewesses with Attitude

Kayla, Rusty, and the "best sport in the world"

When I opened The Boston Globe on Friday morning, I was greeted by a large photo above the fold of a jubilant Kayla Harrison, who had just become the first US judo athlete to win an Olympic gold medal.

Her story is inspiring indeed. At 16, she had turned up at a training center in a Boston suburb. Depressed and full of rage after years of being sexually abused by one of her judo coaches (now serving a ten-year prison sentence), she began working with Jimmy Pedro and his father Jim Pedro, Sr. Jimmy Pedro, himself an Olympic medalist, told the Globe “She’s had to overcome so much that to step on the Olympic mat is nothing compared to what she’s already beaten. That’s what gives her incredible resolve.” Harrison told the press that she hoped her gold medal would change “America’s perspective on judo … I love my sport. It’s the best sport in the world.”

Rusty Glickman Kanokogi would have agreed. I hope Kayla Harrison knows her story. She was the tough Jewish kid from Coney Island who also thought judo was the best sport in the world. Unfortunately, when Rusty was in her prime, women’s judo was not included in the Olympics. She worked hard to change that and finally succeeded. In 1988, the International Olympic Committee finally admitted women’s judo to competition. Rusty Kanokogi, known as the “Mother of Women’s Judo,” traveled to Seoul, Korea, as coach of the U.S. team.

You’ll doubtless be hearing much more about Kayla Harrison. To learn more about Rusty Kanokogi, see Gabrielle Orcha’s July 30th post on “Jewesses with Attitude”   and a 2007 tribute to her on the “We Remember” section of

How to cite this page

Rothman, Ellen K.. "Kayla, Rusty, and the "best sport in the world"." 6 August 2012. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on May 27, 2016) <>.


Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now


Which topics pique your interest on the JWA blog?

Sign Up for JWA eNews



2 hr
"I don’t need a hero. I have the generations of feminists who came before me to thank for that..."
1 day
"If the tables were turned and Donald Trump worked for his daughter, he would have been fired long, long ago.”
1 day
After decades of waiting—and months of lobbying—female air force pilots of WWII will finally get their hero's burial