Middletown has “a special night” planned for its two-time Olympic gold medalist, said Middletown High School Athletic Director Aaron Zupka.
A parade will honor Middletown native Kayla Harrison, who won a gold medal in judo at the 2016 Rio Olympics, matching her feat four years ago at the London Olympics. Harrison is the only American to win a judo gold medal.
After her first gold medal, Harrison returned to Middletown and met with students throughout the district and was given a parade through the city.
Zupka said Harrison contacted the school about coming home after her second gold-medal performance.
“That speaks about her character,” Zupka said about Harrison wanting to return. “She wants to give back.”
He said Middletown is fortunate to be home to Harrison and Jerry Lucas, who won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in men’s basketball.
Harrison grew up in Middletown, then moved to Boston when she was 16 years old to train with Olympic bronze medalist Jimmy Pedro and his father, Jimmy Sr.
Harrison has shared publicly her struggle with the impact of sexual abuse inflicted upon her by her childhood coach Daniel Doyle. Doyle, 16 years her senior, was jailed for 10 years in November 2007 after pleading guilty to abusing Harrison over a three-year period starting when she was 13 years old.
In addition to talking openly about that abuse, Harrison has also launched a foundation aimed at helping victims of abuse.
Harrison, 26, has become a role model to students throughout the district, Zupka said.
“They are in the same position as her, sitting in the same seats and when they see her, they know any of their dreams are possible,” he said. “She has had a tremendous impact on our kids. They are well aware of her story.”
The parade will start at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 9 at the city’s bus terminal on First Avenue. The parade will travel down South Main Street and end at Barnitz Stadium. There will be an on-field presentation before the Middies host Trotwood-Madison in their home-opener at 7 p.m. City dignitaries are scheduled to speak and Harrison will address the crowd, Zupka said.
Some of the groups scheduled to appear in the parade include the Middletown High School marching band, high school and middle school fall sports teams, and boys and girls scout troops, he said.