U.S. Olympic Tae Kwon Do Team differs greatly in age and experience
The athletes who comprise the newly named U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team differ greatly in age and experience, but their goals and dreams are identical.
Jackie Galloway, Stephen Lambdin, Steven Lopez and Paige McPherson and all hope to return to the United States with a gold medal after competing at the Olympic Games this summer in Rio de Janeiro.
Galloway, the youngest member of the team and one of two Olympic newcomers, earned her spot in December via world ranking. The other three — including Lopez, who hasn’t missed the Olympic Games since taekwondo was added as a sport in 2000 — were named to the team this weekend after finishing in the top two at the Pan American Qualification Tournament in Aguascalientes, Mexico.
Here’s a brief look at the four athletes who will be representing the United States in taekwondo this summer:
At 37 years old, Lopez is the most decorated taekwondo athlete the United States has ever produced. He won his first world title in 2001 as a lightweight, and then again in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009 as a welterweight, making him the first taekwondo fighter to win five world championships. He won Olympic gold medals in 2000 and 2004 and bronze in 2008.
Galloway, 20, became the first member of Team USA to clinch a spot in the Olympic Games when her performance at the Grand Prix Final in December ensured her placement in the top six of the WTF Olympic ranking in the heavyweight class.
A bronze-medal winner in the 2012 junior world championships, Galloway’s accomplishments this past season included a bronze medal in the world championships in May, helping the United States end a six-year medal drought at that tournament, as well as a gold medal at the Pan American Games, where she defeated two-time Olympian Maria Espinoza of Mexico in the final.
McPherson — whose nickname is “McFierce” — was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic Taekwondo Team when she won a bronze medal in London. Now 25 years old, the welterweight finished in the top two at the Pan American Qualification Tournament on Friday to punch her ticket for her return trip to the Games.
McPherson’s accomplishments in 2015 included a bronze medal at the world championships in May and a gold medal at the Pan American Games. She defeated teammate Cheyenne Lewis 5-3 in the Olympic trials to advance to the qualification tournament. McPherson, of Abilene, Texas, is currently No. 7 in the WTF Olympic rankings.
Lambdin will be making his Olympic debut at the age of 28. The Texas native, who was named the 2010 USA Taekwondo Male Athlete of the Year, defeated Mark Lopez in the heavyweight division at the U.S. Olympic Team Trials to advance to the Pan American Qualification Tournament. There he defeated Canada’s Marc Andre Bergeron in the semifinals to ensure his place in the top two and a trip to Rio. He is the No. 10 ranked heavyweight in the world.
Lambdin, who was the 2004 junior world championships bronze medalist, advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2015 world championships and took second in the Pan Am Games Team Trials in 2015.
Part of Lambdin’s mental training for the Olympic Team Trials following his last grand prix of the season included traveling to Poland in early December for “Iceman” Wim Hof’s training camp in which participants learned breathing and other techniques in the extreme cold. Previous top performances for Lambdin include a bronze medal at the 2011 Pan Am Games and bronze at the 2012 U.S. Open.