LONDON – Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) made it two Olympic medals in two days for the U.S. taekwondo contingent as they wrapped up their competition at the 2012 Games.
The 21-year-old South Dakotan, who trains in Miami, Fla., battled her way back through the repechage round to claim a bronze medal in the women’s -67kg division at the ExCel Centre on Friday. She clinched the medal with an 8-3 win over Slovenia’s Franka Anic, then took a victory lap around the arena with the American flag.
“That was something I’ve always dreamed of doing,” said McPherson of her celebration. “As soon as I won I knew that it wasn’t just myself that got me here, it was my parents, my family, my coaches, my training partners, everyone. That was for them.”
To start the day, McPherson not only had to face the nervousness of competing at her first Olympic Games but also the challenge of facing a legend in British taekwondo, two-time world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Sarah Stevenson. But nothing seemed to faze the young American as she quickly landed a three-point head shot and then extended her lead to 5-0 in the second round and was never in trouble, winning by a count of 5-1.
“I had to respect her because she is a world champion,” McPherson said. “I just laid it all out there and I was successful. I fought my fight. When I saw the faces of my family and their eagerness, it just fed my eagerness.”
In her quarterfinal match, McPherson would run into a determined Nur Tatar of Turkey. After going up 1-0, McPherson surrendered a two-point turning kick to Tatar, followed by a four-point spin hook kick to the head, resulting in a 6-1 loss that relegated her to the repechage round following Tatar’s advancement to the final.
In her first repechage match, McPherson refocused herself and completely dominated Grenada’s Andrea St. Bernard, winning by a 15-2 point gap, and capping with a three-point headshot 51 seconds into the third round.
“Ever since I lost I told myself I need to step up my game and give it my all,” McPherson said. “I just needed to let everything go.”
She followed that up in the medal round, coming back from a 3-1 deficit to Anic and closing out the match with seven straight points, including a three-point head shot in the final round to ice the victory.
Korea’s Kyung Seon Hwang won the gold medal in the division, with Tatar taking the silver and Germany’s Helena Fromm claiming the other bronze medal.
Things did not go as smoothly for the U.S. in the men’s -80kg division which was also contested on Friday.
Fighting on an injured ankle sustained in training two weeks ago, three-time Olympic medalist Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) lost a 3-2 decision to the top-ranked fighter in the division. Lopez took a 1-0 lead late in the first round of his opening match against Azerbaijan’s Ramin Azizov, but Azizov rallied with two scoring kick of his own in the second round to take a 2-1 advantage.
Another score by the Azerbaijan fighter in the third round made it 3-1 before Lopez earned a point for Azizov’s second infraction of the contest. Azizov’s loss to Italy’s Mauro Sarmiento in the quarterfinals ended Lopez’s chances to reach the repechage round for the bronze medal and marks his first Olympic Games in four appearances in which he hasn’t walked away with a medal, having won gold in 2000 and 2004, and bronze in 2008.
Argentina’s Sebastien Eduardo Crismanich won the gold medal in the men’s -80kg division, defeating Spain’s Nicolas Garcia Hemme in the final. Great Britain’s Muhammad Lutalo and Sarmiento took the bronze medals.
Terrence Jennings (Alexandria, Va.) claimed the American’s first medal of the competition on Thursday night, winning bronze in the men’s -68kg division.