One Lopez prevails at U.S. Olympic taekwondo trials

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One member of the decorated Lopez taekwondo family could keep the tradition going at the Rio Olympics.

Two-time Olympic champion Steven Lopez won his weight division at the U.S. Olympic trials on Tuesday, but brother Mark Lopez, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, lost, failing to advance to a continental qualifier in March.

Sister Diana Lopez, a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, had a baby girl in January 2015 and did not compete at the Olympic trials in Reno, Nev.

Steven Lopez, 37, beat 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Terrence Jennings in overtime Tuesday. They squared off in the welterweight (80kg) final, Lopez’s natural weight class and a division higher than Jennings’ featherweight division (68kg) from the London Games.

Steven Lopez, who lost in the first round at the 2012 Olympics, is on the verge of making a fifth Olympic team, should he finish in the top two at the March continental qualifier.

He is ranked No. 10 in the world in his class (with one of the top nine being a North American athlete) and reached the 2015 World Championships quarterfinals, falling to the eventual champion.

“Like an artist, they paint until they can’t paint any longer,” Lopez, a 2000 and 2004 Olympic gold medalist and 2008 bronze medalist, said, according to TeamUSA.org. “It’s a little different being an Olympic athlete, because physically you are only going to be at your best for a certain amount of time.”

Mark Lopez, 33, fell to Stephen Lambdin in the heavyweight (80kg+) division Tuesday, moving up two weight classes from his normal featherweight division.

In the lone women’s match, London Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson beat Cheyenne Lewis in the welterweight (67kg) division.

Trials winners did not clinch Olympic berths but rather advanced to a Pan American qualification tournament in Mexico from March 10-11. The top two finishers per weight class there qualify for the Olympics.

USA Taekwondo can send three athletes to Mexico, so it had to consolidate its best athletes into three divisions total for the U.S. trials.

Jackie Galloway qualified for the U.S. Olympic taekwondo team last year via her international ranking.

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Richard Callaghan, figure skating coach, banned for life

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Richard Callaghan, a figure skating coach best known for helping Tara Lipinski earn 1998 Olympic gold, was ruled permanently ineligible for violations including sexual misconduct involving a minor.

Callaghan can still appeal the sexual misconduct violation, according to the U.S. Center for SafeSport, a watchdog for U.S. Olympic sports organizations that updated Callaghan’s status Wednesday.

He was first suspended in March 2018 pending an investigation into allegations first made against him more than 20 years ago.

Earlier this month, another former skater, Adam Schmidt, said in a lawsuit that he was sexually molested as a teenager by Callaghan starting in 1999.

Callaghan was previously accused of sexual misconduct in April 1999 by Craig Maurizi, one of his former students and later an assistant to him in San Diego and Detroit.

Maurizi told The New York Times that Callaghan had engaged in inappropriate sexual contact with him beginning when he was 15 years old. The alleged misconduct had begun nearly 20 years earlier. Callaghan denied the allegations.

In March 2018, Callaghan told ABC News: “That’s 19 or 20 years ago. I have nothing to say.”

Maurizi’s previous grievance against Callaghan with the U.S. Figure Skating Association, the precursor to U.S. Figure Skating, was dismissed on procedural grounds.

He was Callaghan’s assistant at the Detroit Skating Club until they split after Lipinski turned pro, left Callaghan and decided to train with Maurizi.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Pita Taufatofua, Tonga flag bearer, finishes last in kayak debut

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Pita Taufatofua, the Tonga Olympic flag bearer who went viral in Rio and PyeongChang, began his quest to make a third straight Olympics in a third different sport with a last-place finish in his opening-round heat at the world sprint kayak championships in Hungary on Wednesday.

The start of the heat appeared delayed as Taufatofua struggled to get his kayak into position in the water. He was left at the start as the other six kayakers raced out and finished between 33 and 40 seconds. Taufatofua took 58.19 seconds, the slowest of 53 finishers among seven total heats.

“Well that was slightly better than the first time I competed in Taekwondo or skiing,” was tweeted from Taufatofua’s account. “Would have liked to start facing the right way but that’s life.”

Taufatofua, 35, was the oldest athlete in the heat by nearly a decade. He is also entered in doubles races with Tonga canoe federation president Malakai Ahokava with heats Thursday and Friday.

Taufatofua hopes to compete at the Tokyo Olympics in taekwondo, where he competed in Rio, and in sprint kayak.

But he hasn’t competed in taekwondo in three years and just started training kayak this spring. At worlds, Taufatofua told the BBC he is still having trouble staying afloat in the water.

Taufatofua said in announcing the new sport in April that it would be “largely impossible” to qualify for Tokyo. He could be the first athlete to compete in a different sport in three straight Olympics (Summer and Winter) since the Winter Games began in 1924, according to the OlyMADMen.

“It’s certainly going to be the greatest challenge that I’ve ever had to embark on,” he said then.

Taufatofua’s results at worlds this week has little bearing on his Olympic qualifying prospects. Rather, he just needed to compete in Hungary to stay eligible for the Olympics.

The key will be an Oceania qualifying event early next year, where one Olympic bid is available. He will likely have to beat the best kayakers from Australia and New Zealand to grab it. Australian Stephen Bird placed eighth at the Rio Olympics and 11th at the 2018 World Championships.

If Taufatofua fails, he could receive a special tripartite invitation sometimes offered to smaller nations like Tonga.

Taufatofua became a social-media celebrity by marching into the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony shirtless and oiled up. He then lost in the first round via mercy rule in his taekwondo tournament.

He made a quixotic bid for the PyeongChang Winter Games in cross-country skiing — and accomplished the feat, barely, in a sport that has lenient qualifying requirements for nations with a lack of Winter Games depth.

Taufatofua finished 114th out of 116 in his 15km Olympic cross-country skiing race, nearly 23 minutes behind the winner.

If Taufatofua is able to carry the Tongan flag at a third Opening Ceremony, he will definitely be shirtless again, in a similar outfit to what he wore in Rio and PyeongChang, he said last year.

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