Two Olympic medalists and two first-time Olympians will comprise the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for Taekwondo following the final phase of Olympic Trials held Saturday in Colorado Springs.
Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas), 33, earns a spot on his fourth Olympic team alongside his younger sister, Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas), 28, while Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) and Terrence Jennings (Alexandria, Va.), 25, qualify for their first Olympic squad.
Jennings defeated 2008 Olympic silver medalist Mark Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas), 29, to deny the third Lopez sibling a trip to his second straight Games. Lopez, as the number-two seed in the men's -68kg division, defeated Jennings in sudden death overtime in their first matchup on Saturday. That forced a second and deciding match for the spot on the Olympic Team. Another close match ensued with Jennings finally breaking the scoreless tie with a scoring kick with just 15 seconds remaining in the match.
"I felt really well prepared and very focused," said Jennings. "I knew it wasn't going to be an easy day, whether it's one match or two, I had to be completely focused. I'm overly ecstatic. This is probably one of those moments I will never forget. The fact that I can now officially call myself an Olympian -- it means the world to me."
Diana Lopez, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, opened the day's action with a 3-1 victory over Danielle Holmquist (Coral Springs, Fla.) in the women's -57kg category. Lopez landed a three-point head kick in the first round that proved to be the only score she would need.
"I came in and did what I had to do," Lopez said. "I clocked in and I clocked out, and that's what I had been visualizing every day at training. I'm happy but it's a bittersweet situation that we're in. We're used to the whole family traveling together, so we leave one left behind."
McPherson faced 2004 Olympic silver medalist Nia Abdallah (Houston, Texas) in the women's -67kg division and built a 5-0 lead after two rounds. Abdallah came storming back in the final round to close the gap to within 5-4 with 10 seconds remaining, but McPherson was able to withstand the onslaught and hang on for the victory.
"It really hasn't hit me yet, but I'm just so honored and blessed to glorify my God at the Olympics, and also for my country -- one of the biggest and greatest countries of the world," McPherson stated. "I hope I can be an inspiration for others that -- wherever you live -- you can make it to the Olympics. As long as you follow your dreams and work hard, you can do anything."
Steven Lopez defeated TJ Curry (El Sobrante, Calif.) in the men's -80kg division to earn a trip to his fourth Olympic Games. Lopez went up 4-0 and held on for a 4-3 victory after Curry scored a second-round head kick. Lopez won Olympic gold in 2000 and 2004, and a bronze at the Beijing Games in 2008.
"The plan is to bring home the gold medal," said Lopez when asked what he will do differently at this year's Olympic Games. "Every athlete strives to win the gold medal. I'm going to make sure I do everything possible to make that happen."