A pair of Olympic silver medalists took the long road on Friday to qualify for the Olympic Trials Finals. Mark Lopez
(Sugar Land, Texas) and Nia Abdallah
(Houston, Texas) both fought their way back through the elimination bracket to win their respective divisions at phase 7 of the Olympic Trials for Taekwondo in Colorado Springs.
Lopez, the 2008 Olympic silver medalist in the -68kg division, opened with a 4-0 win over Jaysen Ishida
(Waipahu, Hawaii), but lost his next match to James Howe
(San Ramon, Calif.), 2-1, to drop him into the elimination bracket in the double-elimination format. Howe would go undefeated to earn the top seed in the finals, meaning he would only need one win over the challenger to win the division.
Lopez proceeded to battle back through the elimination bracket with consecutive wins over Johnny Nguyen
(Chandler, Ariz.), 3-1, Steven Lin
(Queens, N.Y.), 4-1, and Jesus Armendariz
(La Porte, Texas), 3-1, to reach the finals and set up a rematch with Howe.
Needing two straight victories as the #2 seed, Lopez came through in the clutch, never trailing in either match and winning by scores of 5-3 and 2-1 to claim the division. He will now face top-seeded Terrence Jennings
(Alexandria, Va.) at the Olympic Trials finals in March and once again will need two straight wins to qualify for his second Olympic Team.
"It took me a little bit to get into my rhythm," Lopez conceded. "The match I lost, I swayed away from my original gameplan. I was overly aggressive instead of being calm and collected. Once I got into my ryhytm it was smooth sailing."
Abdallah, a 2004 Olympic silver medalist, also had to battle her way back after a 1-0 first-match loss to Cornelia Torres
(Inverness, Ill.). She answered the call with six consecutive victories to win the women's -67kg division. Abdallah posted a 10-3 win over Stephanie Beckel
(Miami, Fla.), a 14-1 win over Ashley Jobin
(Scappoose, Ore.), an 8-5 win over Sanaz Shahbazi
(San Jose, Calif.) and a 3-1 win over Merissa Pico
(Ft. Lee, N.J.) to reach the finals as the #2 seed.
"I've been there before so I know what I needed to do," said Abdallah about having to fight back through the elimination bracket. "Losing that first fight woke me up. I work better under pressure so I knew what I needed to do."
Facing #1 seed Lauren Hamon
(Miami, Fla.) for the first time in her career, Abdallah scored decisive three-point head kicks in both matches. The first broke open a 4-3 match and propelled her to a 7-3 victory, and the second head kick came in sudden death overtime of the second match to give Abdallah the win and a berth in the Olympic Trials finals in March against top seed Paige McPherson
"When I'm in situations like that I know I just need to win," added Abdallah. "There was no extra pressure. I was playing my game and making it work against her. If I followed she was open. I had to get in close and waited for her to commit to the kick and then went to the face. Nobody thinks about head kicks in overtime so I waited for the right time."
The Olympic Trials finals to determine the four-member U.S. Team that will compete in London will take place in Colorado Springs, March 10-11. The top seed in each weight class needs just one victory to make the team while the #2 seed will require two straight wins.
Final Results in Male -68kg
1. Mark Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas)
2. James Howe (San Ramon, Calif.)
3. Jesus Armendariz (La Porte, Texas)
4. Steven Lin (Queens, N.Y.)
5. Johnny Nguyen (Chandler, Ariz.)
5. Bernard Posey (Greensboro, N.C.)
7. Jaysen Ishida (Waipahu, Hawaii)
Final Results for Female -67kg
1. Nia Abdallah (Houston, Texas)
2. Lauren Hamon (Miami, Fla.)
3. Merissa Pico (Ft. Lee, N.J.)
4. Sanaz Shahbazi (San Jose, Calif.)
5. Ashley Jobin (Scappoose, Ore.)
5. Cornelia Torres (Inverness, Ill.)
Olympic Trials Finals Matchups (March 10-11 in Colorado Springs)
#1 Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) vs. #2 Danielle Holmquist (Miami, Fla.)
#1 Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) vs. #2 Nia Abdallah (Houston, Texas)
#1 Terrence Jennings (Alexandria, Va.) vs. #2 Mark Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas)
#1 Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) vs. #2 TJ Curry (El Sobrante, Calif.)