London, England (Sports Network) - Kayla Harrison made history on Thursday, becoming the first American ever to win an Olympic gold medal in judo.
Harrison, the 2010 world champion, won the women's 78-kilogram division by beating Great Britain's Gemma Gibbons, who herself made a surprise run to the final.
"I was surprised at who I was against in the final, but she deserved to be there. She was tough to beat, all the competitors were strong," said Harrison.
It was only the second medal ever by a U.S. female in judo, joining the bronze won by Ronda Rousey at the 2008 Beijing Games.
After winning all of her previous matches by ippon, including one over world No. 1 Mayra Aguiar of Brazil, Harrison scored a pair of yuko points against Gibbons, getting one in the first minute and another in the last for the historic medal.
The 22-year-old, who was once a victim of sexual abuse by a former coach, may have now put the sport on the map in the U.S.
"I hope a million little kids sign up for judo in the United States. I hope we have seven Olympic champions in 2016," she said.
Gibbons, who finished 17th at the 2010 World Championships, had to knock off reigning world champion Audrey Tcheumeo of France to reach the final. Tcheumeo won a bronze Thursday, as Aguiar.
In the men's 100kg, 2011 world champion Tagir Khaibulaev of Russia scored a victory over Tuvshinbayar Naidan of Mongolia to win the gold, besting the 2008 gold medalist by ippon.
"The final was easy somehow, maybe it just seems to me this way. I threw him quickly," Khaibulaev said. "I left all my emotions on the tatami."
Bronze medals in the weight class went to German Dimitri Peters and Henk Grol of the Netherlands.
08/02 15:12:41 ET