Lopez family going for golds in taekwondo
BEIJING (AP) Steven Lopez looked at his draw in taekwondo on Monday and didn't bat an eye. In his first match, he will have to fight the man he beat in the Athens final, Turkey's Bahri Tanrikulu. And Lopez won that fight with an advantage - Tanrikulu had a broken arm.
Not much fazes Lopez.
He has done it all, multiple times. He won the world championships four times, and hasn't lost a match since 2002. He has won both Olympic Games he has competed in.
But "three-peat" has a whole different meaning for him here in Beijing. It's going to require some help from his kid brother and sister.
Steven isn't hoping to just win his own Olympic gold for a third time, but to see his brother Mark and sister, Diana, who are both making their Olympic debuts, win as well.
"When they fight, I'm a nervous wreck," Steven said. "But I'm thinking about the possibility of creating history. The possibility of all of us going out there and getting golds is feasible."
The fighting Lopez family, coached by their eldest brother, Jean, a world silver medalist in 1995, is the first family of three siblings to compete for the United States since 1904.
Unlike their predecessors - Edward, Richard and William Tritschler, who competed in gymnastics but failed to win, place or show - the Lopez's are all favored go home to Sugar Land, Texas, just outside of Houston, with medals.
At the world championships in 2005, they did, in style.
For the first time ever for three siblings in the same year in the same sport, they each won gold in their divisions.
"The best way you can raise up your family is to do well and win," Mark said. "I feel like I have an advantage having Steven and Jean around because they've done it before. And, of course, I want Steven and Diana to win."
Diana Lopez, who tried and failed to get onto the U.S. Olympic team twice before making it this year, said qualifying was probably harder than what's ahead when the Olympic taekwondo competition gets started Wednesday.
She said winning gold at the world championships was probably harder, too.
"The world championships has six fights a day," she said. "At the Olympics, the most you have is four."
Diana, who lost to a South Korean opponent at the 2007 worlds and ended with a bronze, said she expects a lot of action - and said she will be trying to generate most of it.
"I'm taller than most of the women in my class, so expect a lot of face kicks, and strong body attacks," she said after a light workout with her brothers Monday.
She won't be fighting the same South Korean that beat her at the world championships because the Korean roster has changed, and there will be no reigning world or Olympic champion in the field.
But the Korean team has never failed to get at least a bronze out of each of the eight competitors they have entered since taekwondo was put on the official Olympic roster at the 2000 Sydney Games, and have taken five golds.
Getting past them is always a turning point.
"First fight, last fight - you're going to get them eventually," she said. "But I think, if I'm on, I'm untouchable."
Mark has also had some trouble getting past the Korean barrier.
He lost to Korea's Son Tae-jin in the quarterfinals of the 2007 world Olympic qualifier in sudden-death overtime. Son is in a different pool, so if they meet again, it could be in the final.
Mark and Diana fight first. They are scheduled to begin on the second day of the competition. On the opening day of the competition, the U.S. will field 17-year-old Charlotte Craig.
Steven does not have any Koreans in his division but is expected to face a stiff challenge by Tanrikulu - who also has a sister in Diana's weight class - and Iran's Hadi Saei.
He fights Friday.
"They go first, so it's all up to them" Steven said of his siblings. "When I'm in the ring, it's all up to me. But we're all ready. It's been a long time in the waiting."