For most of her life,
After winning, Harrison ran the typical gold medalist gauntlet of media appearances, travel, parties and awards shows. Her life changed in ways she never expected.
"You spend hours and hours and hours and years in the gym, on the mat, visualizing, and it's all about that one day," Harrison told USA TODAY Sports. "For me, when I got to London, I had never even visualized life after London. I was really surprised by how much my life changed, and how fast that happened."
Now, with the
Brazilian Mayra Aguiar is expected to be her biggest competition. She is the reigning world champion, and won bronze in London. The two have faced each other 12 times, and are 6-6.
"I'm kind of quietly chipping away at getting that number one spot. I definitely believe in fate and destiny. I fought a British girl in the final in London, and I have no doubt in my mind that I'm going to fight Mayra in Brazil," Harrison said.
Harrison lost the No. 1 ranking after a knee injury kept her from competing. The time off after surgery convinced her she still loved her sport.
"When I hurt my knee, it really was, 'Do I still have what it takes to compete at the highest level? Am I going to get back to that athlete I was?'" Harrison said. "It was a slow road back, and sometimes painful. But now I think I'm in a good position to defend my title in Rio."
Her preparations also include setting up her life after Rio. Harrison was sexually abused by her judo coach as a youth. She has started a foundation to both stop future abuses and help other victims. With the help of a psychologist, Harrison is working on a book that she hopes will be used by schools in teaching students about how to handle abuse.
"There's all this educational material on stranger danger and drugs and saying no to alcohol and bullying, but there's not any material on what you should do if someone close to you tries to take advantage of you," she said.
Having a post-Olympic plan in place is important for Harrison. Olympic gold medalist and swimmer