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LOPEZ Steven
LOPEZ Steven

Steven LOPEZ

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Taekwondo family values

Two-time Olympic taekwondo champion Steven Lopez is fortunate to enjoy the support of a team of sporting siblings: Jean, his coach, and Mark and Diana, both of whom have also earned Olympic medals in the discipline.

Early beginnings

Julio and Ondina Lopez emigrated from Nicaragua to the USA in 1972. Steven, their second son, was born in New York on 9 November 1978. The Lopez family settled in Texas, where Julio encouraged his offspring to take up taekwondo. Steven, who was often found practising with his siblings – Jean, Mark and Diana – in the family garage, exhibited a particular talent for the combat sport, winning a host of high-profile tournaments while still in his teenage years, such as the WTF World Junior Championships and Pan Am Games in 1996, the WTF World Cup in 1997, and the Pan Am Games again in 1998. With taekwondo added to the Olympic programme for the first time ahead of Sydney 2000, he chose to compete in the lightweight category (68kg).

Historic Olympic double

With Jean as his coach, Steven thereby became the first Lopez family member to take part in the Olympic Games. On 28 September 2000, a tight victory over Sin Joon-Sik (KOR) on the mats of Sydney’s State Sports Centre saw him stake his place in history as one of the first four Olympic taekwondo champions. Four years later in Athens, the American athlete switched categories, but the outcome was the same, as he secured the Olympic welterweight (80kg) title – and his second successive gold medal – by seeing off Turkey’s Bahri Tanrikulu in the final by a score of 3-0.

A family affair

“We have common goals and dreams,” Steven Lopez once said of his family. Guided by Jean, by then fulfilling the role of American national coach, Mark (men’s 67kg), Diana (women’s 59kg) and Steven (men’s 78 kg) were all crowned world champions in Madrid in 2005.

That exceptional result was almost repeated at Beijing 2008, where Jean again inspired his family members to medal success, Mark finishing second in the 68kg category and Diana winning a bronze in the 57kg event. Steven, meanwhile, lost to Mauro Sarmiento (ITA) in the 80kg quarter-finals, but fought his way back via the repechage to claim third place. It was the first time that three siblings had medalled in the same Games and the same sport. In addition, Steven joined Hadi Saei (IRI) as the taekwondo competitor with the most podium appearances.

King of taekwondo

Time caught up with the 33-year-old at London 2012, where he fell at the first-round stage, while Diana’s adventure also came to an end in the repechage. Boasting three Olympic medals and five world titles (the last of which was obtained in 2009 in Copenhagen), Steven Lopez is the most successful taekwondoist in history. His accomplishments, as well as those of his brothers and sister, are summed up by Diana: “We’re an ordinary family that has achieved extraordinary things.”

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Gallery

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Saei Wins Another Gold

Hadi Saei of Iran comes from behind to win the gold medal against Italian Mauro Sarmiento in the middleweight class of men's taekwondo. Saei scores first, but Sarmiento storms back to lead 4-1. Saei attacks and regains the momentum, scoring five unanswered points to win 6-4. Saei receives his second Olympic gold to add to his two world championships. Taekwondo -80kg (Middleweight) Final Men - Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics - Mauro Sarmiento (ITA) vs Hadi Saei (IRI)
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Mens -80kg Medal Ceremony

ATHENS - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Silver Medalist Bahri Tanrikulu of Turkey, gold medalist Steven Lopez of the United States and bronze medalist Yossef Karami of Iran pose for photos after the men's under 80 kg Taekwondo event on August 28, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Sports Pavilion part of the Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Bahri Tanrikulu;Steven Lopez;Yossef Karami
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Mens -80kg Gold Contest

ATHENS - AUGUST 28: (L-R) Steven Lopez of the United States against Bahri Tanrikulu of Turkey in the men's under 80 kg Taekwondo gold medal match on August 28, 2004 during the Athens 2004 Summer Olympic Games at the Sports Pavilion part of the Faliro Coastal Zone Olympic Complex. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Steven Lopez

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