The United States Taekwondo Team secured its maximum number of four spots for the 2012 Olympic Games on Sunday when Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) and Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) both reached the finals in their respective divisions at the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament in Queretaro, Mexico. A top-three finish was needed at the event to qualify.
Lopez, the three-time Olympic medalist and five-time world champion, found himself trailing Puerto Rico's Angel Roman, 5-1, after two rounds of their quarterfinal match, but used all his experience in the third and final round to pull out a 6-5 win. He then defeated Canada's Sebastian Michaud in the semifinal round, 3-0, to clinch the U.S. a berth in the men's -80kg division at the London Games. Lopez elected not to fight in the final having already secured the Olympic spot.
McPherson had a bye into the semifinal round of the women's -67kg division and therefore needed just one victory to clinch a U.S. spot in that division. She proceeded to do just that with a 10-6 win over Andrea St. Bernard of Grenada. McPherson chose to fight the final against world champion and Olympic silver medalistKarine Sergerie of Canada and lost a hard-fought 7-5 decision.
The U.S. secured the first two weight divisions on Saturday when Terrence Jennings(Alexandria, Va.) finished third in the men's -68kg class and Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) placed third in the women's -57kg division.
These four U.S. athletes will now be the top seeds in their respective divisions for a series of Olympic Trials events held in 2012. They will each face a top American challenger in March to determine the individual representatives for the U.S. in the four weight divisions at the 2012 Olympic Games in London, England. That challenger will come from an Olympic Trials held Jan. 12-13 in Colorado Springs among a pool of Olympic Trials participants from the initial phase back in November 2010.