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Meet The 2016 U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team

By Karen Price | March 14, 2016, 1:58 p.m. (ET)

The athletes who comprise the newly named U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team differ greatly in age and experience, but their goals and dreams are identical.


Jackie Galloway, Stephen Lambdin, Steven Lopez and Paige McPherson and all hope to return to the United States with a gold medal after competing at the Olympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro.


Galloway, the youngest member of the team and one of two Olympic newcomers, earned her spot in December via world ranking. The other three — including Lopez, who hasn’t missed the Olympic Games since taekwondo was added as a sport in 2000 — were named to the team this weekend after finishing in the top two at the Pan American Qualification Tournament in Aguascalientes, Mexico.


Here’s a brief look at the four athletes who will be representing the United States in taekwondo this summer:


Steven Lopez

At 37 years old, Lopez is the most decorated taekwondo athlete the United States has ever produced. He won his first world title in 2001 as a lightweight, and then again in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 as a welterweight, making him the first taekwondo fighter to win five world championships. He won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 and bronze in 2008.


Lopez went to the Games for a fourth time in 2012, but an ankle fracture suffered two weeks before the competition left him unable to compete at 100 percent, and Lopez lost in the first round.


Lopez defeated Cuba’s Jose Angel Cobas in the Pan American Qualification Tournament semifinal to ensure his fifth trip to the Games. Lopez, of Sugar Land, Texas, is No. 10 in the WTF world rankings. He won a bronze medal at the 2015 Pan American Games despite fighting through a shoulder injury, and lost in the quarterfinals at the world championships.


Lopez was just 21 years old when he made his first Olympic team. Team USA has won a total of eight Olympic taekwondo medals, and a member of the Lopez family (including brother Mark and sister Diana) has won all but three.


Jackie Galloway

Galloway, 20, became the first member of Team USA to clinch a spot in the Olympic Games when her performance at the Grand Prix Final in December ensured her placement in the top six of the WTF Olympic ranking in the heavyweight class.


Galloway, a native of Wylie, Texas, who has dual citizenship, was just 14 years old when she was first named to the Mexican national taekwondo team. She was an alternate for that country’s Olympic team in 2012, but after London she returned to the United States and was named to the national team for the first time in 2014.


A bronze-medal winner in the 2012 junior world championships, Galloway’s accomplishments this past season included a bronze medal in the world championships in May, helping the United States end a six-year medal drought at that tournament, as well as a gold medal at the Pan American Games, where she defeated two-time Olympian Maria Espinoza of Mexico in the final.


Galloway is currently a sophomore at Southern Methodist University, where she is studying mechanical engineering. She is No. 3 in the WTF Olympic rankings.


Paige McPherson

McPherson — whose nickname is “McFierce” — was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team when she won a bronze medal in London. Now 25 years old, the welterweight finished in the top two at the Pan American Qualification Tournament on Friday to punch her ticket for her return trip to the Games.


McPherson’s accomplishments in 2015 included a bronze medal at the world championships in May and a gold medal at the Pan American Games. She defeated teammate Cheyenne Lewis 5-3 in the Olympic trials to advance to the qualification tournament. McPherson, of Abilene, Texas, is currently No. 7 in the WTF Olympic rankings.


Past accomplishments include a silver medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games and a quarterfinal loss in the world championships that same year. McPherson was named the 2012 USA Taekwondo Female Athlete of the Year. She advanced to the medal round of the 2012 Olympic Games through the repechage following a quarterfinal defeat and now has the chance to once again go for gold.


Stephen Lambdin

Lambdin will be making his Olympic debut at the age of 28. The Texas native, who was named the 2010 USA Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year, defeated Mark Lopez in the heavyweight division at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to advance to the Pan American Qualification Tournament. There he defeated Canada’s Marc Andre Bergeron in the semifinals to ensure his place in the top two and a trip to Rio. He is the No. 10 ranked heavyweight in the world.


Lambdin, who was the 2004 junior world championships bronze medalist, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2015 world championships and took second in the Pan Am Games Team Trials in 2015.


Part of Lambdin’s mental training for the Olympic Team Trials following his last grand prix of the season included traveling to Poland in early December for “Iceman” Wim Hof’s training camp in which participants learned breathing and other techniques in the extreme cold. Previous top performances for Lambdin include a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games and bronze at the 2012 U.S. Open.


Karen Price is a reporter from Pittsburgh who has covered Olympic sports for various publications. She is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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Stephen Lambdin

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Paige McPherson

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Jackie Galloway