Two-time Olympic gold medalist and Middletown native Kayla Harrison returns to the city today for a parade in her honor.
Similar to a scene four years ago after her first gold medal win, Harrison will be honored and embraced by Middletonians as she travels through the city she once called home.
Harrison, 26, contacted the school district about coming home after her second gold-medal performance in Rio this summer, Middletown High School Athletic Director Aaron Zupka previously told the Journal-News.
“That speaks about her character,” Zupka said about Harrison wanting to return. “She wants to give back.”
Harrison 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.
A parade in honor of Harrison will start at 5:30 p.m. today 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.
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.
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.
Middletown is home to another Olympic gold medalist — Jerry Lucas, who won a gold medal at the 1960 Rome Olympics in men’s basketball.
This article contains previous reporting by staff writer Rick McCrabb.