Photo Courtesy: www.aarpsegundajuventud.org - London hopeful Steven Lopez
The 12 in ’12 series celebrates the fact that the London 2012 Olympic Games are just two years away. The series previews 12 athletes who have proven themselves as true competitors in past Games and look to win medals for Team USA in London. The ninth part of the series features Steven Lopez, a taekwondo athlete who earned three Olympic medals, two gold, in three trips to the Olympic Games, in Sydney, Athens and Beijing.
Two Olympic gold medals. Olympic bronze medal. Five World Taekwondo Championships gold medals.
Steven Lopez is the most decorated athlete in taekwondo history. Lopez won gold in his first Olympic appearance at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and successfully defended his title four years later at the Athens 2004 Olympic Games. Lopez and his siblings, Jean, Mark and Diana, made history for several reasons at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games. The quartet became the first family to have four siblings on the same Olympic team (Jean served as the coach, while his three siblings all competed in the Games). And Steven, Mark and Diana were the first three siblings to medal at the same Olympic Games. Lopez missed out on a third gold medal in Beijing, instead taking a bronze, but continues to be a force to be reckoned with and is on the hunt for gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Thanks, Chuck Norris
In 1972, Julio and Ondina Lopez emigrated from Nicaragua to New York. The following year, Ondina gave birth to their first child: Jean.
Julio Lopez always enjoyed watching Chuck Norris movies, but never had the opportunity to do any karate himself. After moving his family to Sugar Land, Texas, he saw an advertisement for a karate school in Houston and immediately enrolled his son Jean.
“As it turned out it was actually a taekwondo school,” Jean said. “And that is how it all began.”
Two years later, younger brother Steven followed in his brother’s footsteps and took up taekwondo.
“It was great as we always enjoyed doing things together,” Jean said. “Steven and I would practice in our garage and Mark and Diana would watch us train until they were finally old enough to join us.”
Steven Lopez played all sorts of sports from football to baseball to basketball when he was young, but for some reason he gravitated towards taekwondo above anything else. Lopez made the junior national team at a young age and began to travel the world.
“In baseball and football, I was lucky to go to another city to play with another team,’’ Steven said.
His passion for the sport increased in 1988, when he was 10 and saw it performed as a demonstration sport at the Seoul 1988 Olympic Games.
“That’s where the whole concept of wanting to be on the Olympic team and representing the United States first ignited inside of me,” Steven said. And, it’s gotten a lot more popular. Obviously, it’s popular in