The teenager long believed to be the future of the U.S. Olympic taekwondo movement is now its present.
At just 17 years old, Anastasija Zolotic has officially qualified for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020. She earned Team USA an Olympic quota in the women’s -57 kg. when she made the semifinal at the Pan American Olympic Qualification Tournament this week, and will be the one to fill that spot by virtue of her rankings.
She joins 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson, who is headed to her third Olympic Games, as the two members of the 2020 U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team.
Zolotic may be young, but the fact that she has reached her goal of making the Olympic team so quickly isn’t surprising given her track record.
The native of Largo, Florida, has already won a junior world title, a silver medal at the Summer Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018, a Pan American Games gold medal and became the youngest athlete ever to medal at a senior grand prix event, all since 2017.
At 5-foot-11 she’s tall and strong, fights with an aggressive style and is known for being a head-hunter. Coaches have also singled out her discipline, adaptability and mentality as qualities that have aided in her success.
Zolotic started taekwondo in an after-school program, and when she went to the Junior Pan American Championships and won in the flyweight division (44 kg.) in 2017, her potential to advance in the sport became undeniable. She followed that up with gold at the junior world championships in the 52 kg. division, and then fought her way to silver at the Youth Olympic Games in 2018 with an injured hand.
In 2019 she moved up again in weight class to 57 kg., and in June was named Team USA Awards Female Athlete of the Month after becoming the youngest U.S. athlete to medal in a grand prix event when she won bronze in her debut in Rome. She went on to win a gold medal at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 in July and at the Grand Prix Final in December beat two-time Olympic champion Jade Jones of Great Britain in the quarterfinal before winning the bronze medal.
Zolotic is currently ranked seventh in the world in the 57 kg. class.
“I think it’s because my overall goal in the sport is just to be the best,” she told TeamUSA.org last summer when asked why she thinks she’s had the success she’s had so far at such a young age. “I just want to be the best and be there for a long time.