Stephen Lambdin

Steven Lopez

Steven Lopez makes fifth U.S. Olympic taekwondo team

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Steven Lopez is going to a fifth Olympics, hoping to replicate the success of his first three Games and not the disappointment of 2012.

Lopez, 37, and first-time Olympian Stephen Lambdin qualified for the Rio Games at a Pan American tournament Thursday.

They joined 2012 Mexican Olympic team alternate Jackie Galloway on the U.S. Olympic taekwondo team. A fourth athlete, 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson, can round out the team by qualifying Friday.

Lopez earned gold at the 2000 and 2004 Olympics and bronze in 2008. He lost in the first round of London 2012 while slowed by an ankle injury. Taekwondo debuted as an Olympic medal sport in 2000.

For the first time since 2004, Lopez will not have a sibling competing with him in Rio.

Mark Lopez, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist, lost to Lambdin at the U.S. Olympic trials in February, failing to advance to this week’s Pan American tournament.

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

MORE: U.S. athletes qualified for Rio Olympics

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 “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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