Anastasija Zolotic celebrates winning the women's 57 kg. semifinal contest against Lo Chia-ling (Team Chinese Taipei) at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 on July 25, 2021 in Chiba, Japan.
The realization hit Anastasija Zolotic soon after she became the first American woman to win an Olympic gold medal in Taekwondo. The signature achievement, winning the 57 kg. division at the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, wasn’t entirely hers.
The bigger ramifications dominated: opening doors for more girls and women to join American taekwondo and dream big. No longer would U.S. fighters be seen as weak.
Zolotic, then 18, was the first to win gold. Now, she is positive she will not be the last.
“I’m kind of religious, and I really believe that God put me on this path for a reason,” Zolotic, now 20, said. “This happened so other things now can happen too. My medal achieves this, because I worked hard for it, for me, for other people, for other girls. I want to boost my sport, I want American taekwondo to grow, get the publicity. My gold medal did that. The world knows the U.S. is on the rise in the sport, and we are the underdogs who are going to fight you hard.
“I want that gold to be the thing to inspire our next gold medalists and world champions.”
Zolotic admits her desire to role model for other women and girls in the sport is fed by her own path. She didn’t have the major American female champion to look up to, as taekwondo is in a growth cycle.
The depth of her post-Tokyo impact is being measured during her period of downtime from injuries and surgeries. Zolotic’s life has slowed down, as she is not training six hours a day. She has worked through left knee surgery and now is sidelined after recent surgery to repair the labrum in her right hip. She intends to recover in four months, half the normal span, to be back in training and competition to defend her gold at the Olympic Games Paris 2024.
She’s diving in to clearing out the deep pile of direct messages in her social media inboxes and is moved by the heartfelt words left by fans and aspiring taekwondo athletes.