U.S. qualifies first two weight divisions for London Games
(Alexandria, Va.) and Diana Lopez
(Sugar Land, Texas) qualified their respective weight divisions for the 2012 Olympic Games by finishing third on Saturday at the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament in Queretaro, Mexico. A top-three finish was needed at the event to qualify.
Jennings, 25, and a bronze medalist at last month's Pan American Games, won his opening match of the day by a score of 10-5 over Victor Zepeda
of Honduras. He then moved on to the semifinal round with a 9-3 win over Ecuador's Sergio Dario Garcia Moreira.
In the semifinal round, Jennings quickly went ahead of Peru's Peter Lopez
by a 3-0 count only to see Lopez come storming back to win 5-4 and send Jennings into the do-or-die bronze-medal match against Jhohanny Bartermi
of the Dominican Republic. Jennings had lost to Bartermi in the semifinals of last month's Pan Am Games.
In the bronze-medal match, Jennings landed an early headshot on Bartermi to jump in front 3-1 after the opening round. He extended his lead to 6-2 through two rounds and stood his ground in the third period to claim a 7-2 win and qualify the U.S. a spot in the men's -68kg division at the London Olympic Games.
Lopez, 27, and a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, began her day with a bang by point-gapping Bolivia's Mariana Escarlet Fuentes Tordoya, 13-0. In the quarterfinals she won an 8-2 decision over Guatemala's Euda Maria Carias Morales to reach the medal round. The semifinal match versus Cuba's Nidia Munoz Aleman went into a sudden-death overtime period and the Cuban was awarded the match after Lopez was issued a warning for inactivity, which was her second penalty of the round and gave Aleman the needed point for victory.
Faced with a must-win match for the bronze medal, Lopez played it even with Disnansi Polanco through two rounds and the score was deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the third period. Lopez attacked in the final round, going up 3-1 and holding on for a 3-2 victory to earn the U.S. a spot in the women's -57kg division at next summer's London Games.
Jennings and Lopez will now face a top U.S. challenger in March to determine the individual representative for the U.S. in their respective divisions at the 2012 Olympic Games in London. That challenger will come from an Olympic Trials in January among a pool of original Olympic Trials participants.
The U.S. has a chance to secure the final two weight divisions on Sunday when Steven Lopez
(Sugar Land, Texas) competes in the men's -80kg division and Paige McPherson
(Sturgis, S.D.) fights in the women's -67kg class. A top-three finish is needed to qualify each division. Lopez will need two wins in his bracket while McPherson will require just one victory to qualify.
Here are Sunday's brackets: