(L-R) Ashley Kraayeveld and Paige Mc Pherson fighting during the women's under-67kg Round of 8 taekwondo competition at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 29, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
LIMA, PERU – Earlier this year, Paige McPherson told the Miami Herald that the sport of taekwondo is constantly changing. While that may be the case, her stellar performances in the sport remain a constant.
In what she called her “last hoorah,” McPherson took home a medal in her third consecutive Pan American Games in the taekwondo women’s under 67kg. event at the Pan American Games Lima 2019. She also watched her teammates, Jonathan Healy and Madelynn Gorman-Shore, earn gold and bronze, respectively, at Callao Regional Sports Village.
Although McPherson fought valiantly for gold, the two-time Olympian and Olympic Games London 2012 bronze medalist lost to Brazil’s Milena Titoneli, 9-8, for silver. The match was tied 6-6 with 0:10 remaining in Round 3. Titoneli managed to land a last-minute punch and a kick and proceeded to let time run out.
“It’s bittersweet, obviously,” McPherson said. “I’m truly grateful just in itself to be here for a third time. The bitter part of it is that I didn’t get the gold. But, you know, it’s just a joy do to what I love.”
McPherson, who hopes the Olympic Games 2020 Tokyo will be her last, said she will use this as motivation for her next event.
“Seeing the American flag in second place, it’s a good feeling,” she said. “But I’m ready to make it the gold and hear our National Anthem again.”
She didn’t reach the final match without some surprises. McPherson shook off an early unexpected kick to the head from Argentina’s Alexis Arnoldt – a much taller fighter – in her quarterfinal fight.
“It did [surprise me],” she said. “It just kind of made me have to reset and figure out her length.” McPherson ended up winning the match easily, 25-7. Her victory was highlighted by a spectacular right-footed kick to Arnoldt’s head that caused her opponent to fall to the mat, much to the delight of the crowd.
While McPherson waited for her final match, she was able to watch Healy, a newcomer to the Pan Am games, earn gold with a victory in the Men’s Over 80kg. division.
“It’s an amazing feeling,” she said. “It’s not just me that’s medaling, but they’re honestly kind of taking my place. Seeing him win, it got me to tears.”
Madelynn Gorman-Shore posing with her bronze medal from the 67kg division bout against Cuba's Yamitsi Carbonell at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on July 29, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
Healy had lost an early-round match in May to Cuba’s Rafael Alba at the 2019 World Championships in Manchester, England. In the end, he got what he wanted, defeating Alba, 11-6, to claim the gold. He summed up his feeling in three short words.
“I feel great,” he said with a smile.
Though he attacked fast and early in his Round of 8 and quarterfinal matches, Healy took a more methodical approach in the semifinals and finals. Healy found ways to counter Alba’s spinning kicks. He scored most of his points with a kick to Alba’s exposed torso immediately after he spun.
“The plan was to control the distance, manage it really well, and find my points where he could,” he explained.
All of Healy’s fights remained close for the majority of the time. He found ways to add several points in a short time to secure his victories. He tallied four points in the final 20 seconds to win 11-7 during the Round of 8. In the quarterfinals, he managed to score five points in the final :06 to win, 18-12, over Argentina’s Martin Sio. In the semifinal round, Healy found a way to extend his lead late with a punch to win, 9-4.
Not to be outdone, 20-year-old Madelynn Gorman-Shore from Littleton, Colorado earned a bronze medal in the Over 67kg. division. After losing to Colombia’s Gloria Mosquera in her quarterfinal fight, she was awarded a second chance in the repechage bracket.
Gorman-Shore won her next bout, 15-6. In her bronze medal match against Cuba’s Yamitsi Carbonell, Gorman-Shore broke the 5-5 tie with 0:25 remaining with a punch to Carbonell’s torso. She then landed another kick and won, 8-5.
“I had my little crying moment, and then I got super angry, honestly,” she said of her loss to Mosquera. “But then I got back out and did what I did.”
McPherson says she loves watching the other two younger athletes compete at such a high level.
“It’s a pride thing to see that your teammates are going to carry the flag as soon as you’re done,” she said. “These kids are tough, especially what we’re dealing with right now – pressure wise, political wise, trying to get to Tokyo – these kids are tough. I’m proud just be with them and I want to try to keep up.”