By Blythe Lawrence | Dec. 07, 2019, 9:28 a.m. (ET)

Anastasija Zolotic competes at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 28, 2019 in Lima, Peru.

 

Persistence paid off for two-time Olympian Paige McPherson and Anastasija Zolotic at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Final Saturday in Moscow with the veteran and rising newcomer taking back-to-back bronze medals.

McPherson, the bronze medalist in the 67 kg. class at the Olympic Games London 2012, was in control all the way through her match with France’s Magda Wiet-Henin, the 2019 world bronze medalist, steadily building a lead and forcing the French athlete to attempt big-point attacks as the clock dwindled on the third round. 

A kick combined with a well-parried blow by Wiet-Henin spurred a video replay at the tail end of the bout, but it was the 29-year-old McPherson, a double world medalist, who walked off with the 6-5 win. Earlier, she defeated Jordan’s Julyana Al-Sadeq and Egypt’s Hedaya Malak before losing to eventual champion Ruth Gbagbi of the Ivory Coast to set up the bronze-medal match with Wiet-Henin.

Zolotic, a Florida native who turned 17 last month, landed her first Grand Prix Final medal by defeating Canada’s Skylar Park in the bronze-medal match in the 57 kg. class. In a bout that pitted Zolotic, the Pan American Games champion from this past summer in Lima, against the promising Park, last year’s Pan American Taekwondo Championships gold medalist, Zolotic hung on for the win, albeit in a nail-biter. 

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Down 4-0 with less than two minutes in the match, Zolotic landed an excellent back side of the face kick for three points, bringing herself within a point of tying things up. A successful punch on the inside several seconds later made it 4-4 and forced overtime. Zolotic didn’t waste her second chance in the tense overtime – several seconds in, she scored the winning two points for a 2-0 overtime victory that left her pumping her fists and screaming with delight. 

Zolotic won her first match against Croatia’s Nikita Glasnovic and subsequently lost to Turkey’s Hatice Kubra Ilgun before facing Park for the bronze medal. China’s Luo Zongshi won the title. 

Already hugely successful on the international circuit, Zolotic’s results, including a silver medal at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires and gold in sparring at the 2018 Junior World Championships, have marked her out as one of USA Taekwondo’s rising stars. In June, she became the youngest U.S. athlete in history to medal at a taekwondo grand prix event when she took bronze at the Grand Prix in Rome. 

Blythe Lawrence is a journalist based in Seattle. She has covered two Olympic Games and is a freelance contributor to TeamUSA.org on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.