Anastasija Zolotic celebrates after the women's -57kg taekwondo gold medal contest during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Tokyo.
The common sentiment for Anastasija Zolotic’s Olympic debut at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 was to get experience and expect big things at the 2024 Paris Games.
Consider that timeline greatly accelerated.
The 18-year-old became the first American woman to win a taekwondo gold medal Monday when she beat fifth-ranked Tatiana Minina of the Russian Olympic Committee 25-17 in the 57 kg. final at Makuhari Messe Hall near Tokyo.
Zolotic, who was born in Largo, Florida, and now lives and trains in Colorado Springs, Colorado, this year won the Pan American Championships silver medal and in 2018 took gold at the junior world championships and silver at the Youth Olympic Games.
Seeded seventh for the Games, Zolotic got off to a strong start, scoring on two three-point head kicks as part of her 12-10 lead after the first of three rounds. Both athletes landed quick blows in the second round, with Zolotic registering a two-point body kick before Minina countered two seconds later with a head blow. But that was all the scoring in the second round, which finished 14-13.
Zolotic took control by landing four body kicks in the first 1 minute, 8 seconds of the final round to take a 23-14 lead. From there, Zolotic just had to play defense to secure the first gold by a U.S. woman.
Zolotic’s biggest match was a quarterfinal win Sunday over second-ranked Hatice Kubra Ilgun of Turkey 17-9. She opened up that match with a 6-0 lead after the first round and extended that to 11-2 after two. In the semifinals, Zolotic beat Chinese Taipei’s Chia-Ling Lo 28-5. Both of those opponents went on to win bronze medals.
Want to follow Team USA athletes during the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020? Visit TeamUSA.org/Tokyo2020 to view the medal table, results and competition schedule.