WTF President’s New Year
I would like to wish a happy and prosperous New
Year to the entire global taekwondo family.
For the World Taekwondo Federation, the year 2007 was
meaningful to the development of taekwondo as the WTF
resolutely carried out its reform and development programs
as part of efforts to bring about a renaissance in taekwondo.
The WTF places the highest priority on ensuring fair
judging and refereeing at all taekwondo competitions.
In March 2007, the WTF organized the Electronic Protector
International Taekwondo Championships in Chuncheon,
Korea to help determine when it will adopt the electronic
protector system at major taekwondo competitions.
Continuing efforts by electronic protector manufacturers
to perfect their technologies and positive evaluations
of the use of electronic protector systems at taekwondo
events at home and abroad combined to pave the way for
the introduction of an electronic protector system at
WTF-promoted and sanctioned events.
Also in July 2007 the WTF organized a week-long training
camp at Woosuk University in Jeonju, Korea to select
international referees who will officiate at the 2008
Beijing Olympic Games. The event drew some 200 international
referees from 57 countries. The WTF will select the
final 29 referees through several stages of screening.
As a result of the WTF’s stepped-up referee training,
for the first time in the federation’s 34-year
history, not a single protest was lodged at the WTF
World Taekwondo Qualification Tournament in Manchester,
England, and at subsequent continental qualifier tournaments
in Africa, Asia and Oceania.
As you are all well aware, fair judging and refereeing
is the key to the future of taekwondo as an Olympic
The WTF successfully hosted the 2nd WTF World Taekwondo
Poomsae Championships in Incheon, Korea, which greatly
contributed to the expansion of the global taekwondo
community. A re-energized taekwondo as a sport for all
is expected to help increase WTF membership from the
current 188 countries to well over 200 in the near future.
As part of efforts to further promote the image of taekwondo
and the WTF, the federation’s General Assembly
adopted a WTF taekwondo anthem in May 2007, in Beijing.
Also in May, the WTF held its first International Symposium
for Taekwondo Studies on the occasion of the 18th World
Taekwondo Championships, which was held in Beijing from
May 18 to 22. The two-day symposium was held at the
Capital Institute of Physical Education in Beijing,
under the theme “The Pursuit of World Peace Through
To be reborn as a genuine international sports federation,
the WTF will continue to improve its financial transparency
and administrative procedures to the highest global
standards, as well as ensure fairer judging and refereeing
in the year 2008, when the WTF marks the 35th anniversary
of its founding.
For taekwondo to guarantee its continued status as an
Olympic sport after year 2016, a successful taekwondo
competition at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games is crucial.
Fair judging and model behavior by athletes and coaches
based on fair play would greatly help enhance the image
of taekwondo in international sports circles.
More countries are expected to win at least one medal
at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games now that the International
Olympic Committee decided in May 2007 to increase the
number of bronze medals to be awarded at Olympic taekwondo
competition from one per weight category to two starting
with the 2008 Beijing Olympics, thus helping taekwondo
give more hope and dreams to young people around the
world. Taekwondo aspires to produce good people through
the practice of this sport.
The WTF will do its best to ensure successful competitions
at the ‘Good Luck’ Beijing 2008 International
Taekwondo Invitational Tournament scheduled for Feb.
26 to 29 in Beijing, which serves as an Olympic test
event, and at the 7th WTF World Junior Taekwondo Championships
slated for May 8 to 11 in Izmir, Turkey.
In addition, in the New Year the WTF will continue to
expand its assistance programs for taekwondo-developing
In this regard, on December 6 I proposed the creation
of a “Sport Peace Corps” while attending
the 1st International Peace Sport Forum in Monaco.
The proposal envisions expanding the WTF’s taekwondo
assistance program to involve all sports on a global
basis, in cooperation with such international organizations
as the IOC and the United Nations, as well as other
international sports federations.
Dear global taekwondo family members,
To usher in a fruitful New Year for taekwondo and the
WTF, I ask for your continued support and concern. I
wish you good fortune and health in the coming year.
WTF Pan American Qualification
Tournament Concludes in Success in Cali, Colombia
Venezuela earned four berths for the taekwondo competition
at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after the 2007 WTF
Pan American Taekwondo Qualification Tournament, which
ended on Dec. 9, 2007 in Cali, Colombia.
The United States and Brazil clinched three places
each, while Colombia, Mexico and Puerto Rico earned
two places each for the Beijing Olympic Games through
the two-day qualification tournament, which took place
the Velodrome in Cali. The tournament
drew 85 players from 34 countries.
In the men’s -58kg category, Marcio Wenceslau
of Brazil placed first, while Guillermo Perez of Mexico
finished second and Gabriel Mercedes of the Dominican
Republic placed third.
In the men’s -68kg division, Peter Lopez Santos
from Peru placed first, Mark Lopez from the United States
and Idulio Islas from Mexico placed second and third
In the men’s -80kg category, Puerto Rico’s
Juan Sanchez placed first, while Honduras’ Miguel
Adrian Ferrera ranked second and Venezuela’s Carlos
Vasquez placed third.
Cuba’s Angel Matos placed first in the men’s
+80kg category while Costa Rica’s Kristopher Miotland
placed second and Venezuela’s Juan Diaz placed
In the women’s -49kg category, Gladis Mora of
Colombia placed first, while Dalia Contreras of Venezuela
placed second and Charlotte Craig of the United States
In the women’s -57kg division, Brazil’s
Debora Nunes placed first, while the United States’
Diana Lopez placed second and Colombia’s Doris
Patino ranked third.
In the women’s -67kg category, Vanina Sanchez
Beron of Argentina placed first. Karine Sergerie of
Canada placed second in the division, while Asuncion
Ocasio of Puerto Rico ranked third.
Brazil’s Natalia Falavigna placed first in the
women’s +67kg category, Ecuador’s Lorena
Aida Benitez placed second and Venezuela’s Adriana
Carmona placed third.
Master Ji Ho Choi of U.S. Elected
New President of Pan American Taekwondo Union
Master Ji Ho Choi of the United States was elected
the new president of the Pan American Taekwondo Union
at its General Assembly in Cali, Colombia on Dec. 7,
The election took place one day before the 2007 WTF
Pan American Taekwondo Qualification Tournament for
the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, which started on Dec.
8 for a two-day run.
Master Choi, who has served as executive director of
the PATU, will serve as the new president of the PATU
until the next General Assembly, which is scheduled
in Puerto Rico on the occasion of the 2008 Pan American
Taekwondo Championships, most likely to be held in October
or November 2008. The new president of the 42-member
PATU will complete the remaining period of the term
of the late Dr. Cha Sok Park.
Until the election, the PATU, which has 42 member national
countries, was briefly led by the interim president,
Dr. Varo Barragan of Panama, who failed to gain a vote
of confidence from the General Assembly. The General
Assembly then proceeded to elect a new president from
the two candidates, Mr. Choi of the United States and
Mr. Adalberto Escoto of the Dominican Republic.
Master Choi has served the PATU for the past 12 years
in various areas. He received a strong mandate in this
election with a 28-11 voting count.
Upon completion of the voting count, a motion was proposed
on the floor to extend Mr. Choi's term to an additional
four years to allow him to implement his election commitments.
Mr. Choi, however, humbly asked to withdraw the motion
and expressed his appreciation to the General Assembly
for their confidence in him, according to participants
in the General Assembly. He will be running again at
the next General Assembly in Puerto Rico as a candidate
to promote equal opportunity for all other candidates
for the next term.
Mr. Choi's humble, yet confident announcement was appreciated
by the delegates with great expectations, according
to the General Assembly participants.
WTF President Proposes Creation of ‘Sport
Peace Corps’ at Int’l Peace and Sport Forum
WTF President Chungwon Choue proposed the creation
of the so-called “Sport Peace Corps” at
an international forum on peace and sport in Monte Carlo,
Monaco, on Dec. 6, 2007.
“Inspired by the ‘Taekwondo Peace Corps'
initiative, I propose developing a ‘Sport Peace
Corps’ program to expand the initiative globally
in a larger scale and to involve other international
organizations,” said WTF President Choue.
He said, “The Sport Peace Corps entails provision
of comprehensive sport-related assistance to the developing
countries or the United Nations-assigned areas.”
“The assistance includes coaching and training
service to the local young athletes, supply of equipment
and facilities, and finding the means and opportunity
for the competent young people to participate in the
international sport events.”
“It requires a group of volunteers consisted
of coaches, athletes, and teachers to be dispatched
to serve the assigned community,” WTF President
He made the proposal at Session 4 of the inaugural
International Peace and Sport Forum, which opened at
the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel on Dec. 5 for a three-day
run. The sub-topic of Session 4 was “The Sport
Movement: Legitimacy, Means and Sectors of Intervention.”
Under the patronage of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of the
Municipality of Monaco, the first edition of the international
forum drew more than 150 people from around the world.
The International Peace and Sport Forum is a unique
international gathering, which brings together heads
of state and governments, sport governing bodies --
the International Olympic Committee, International Sports
Federations, National Olympic Committees -- the World
Olympians Association, strategic and financial partners,
sport experts and non-governmental organizations.
Among the participants were H.S.H. Prince Albert II;
Joel Bouzou, president of Peace and Sport; Mr. Adolf
Ogi, special advisor to the secretary general of the
United Nations on Sport for Development and Peace; Mr.
Mario Pescante, a member of the IOC Executive Board;
and H.R.H. Prince Nawaf Faisal Fahd Abdulaziz, president
of the Executive Board of Saudi Arabian NOC.
Special guests were invited as speakers of the forum
-- Prof. Manuel Hassassian, Palestinian ambassador to
the United Kingdom; and Mr. Galeb Majadle, minister
of culture, sport and science of Israel. Prof. Hassassian
attended the forum on behalf of Mr. Riad Malki, minister
of information and Foreign affairs of Palestine.
Under the topic “Taekwondo’s Role as an
Instrument of Peace,” WTF President Choue said
that “The Sport Peace Corps project aims at utilizing
sport as part of education, training and youth program;
giving hope and dream to those who are deprived of the
opportunity to learn and practice sports by providing
equipment, skills for education and training, and coaches
for any Olympic sport; encouraging balanced development
of Olympic sport in different regions, correcting the
uneven medal distribution in the past Olympic Games
that benefited a limited number of countries; and contributing
to the promotion of friendship and understanding through
sport and people-to-people interaction.” “Ultimately
this project encourages participation of sport-loving
people in the peace-building process.”
Dr. Choue’s proposal drew a keen and high interest
among the participants in the forum.
The Sport Peace Corps concept was first raised by WTF
President Choue at an international workshop on sports
and peace in Leuven, Belgium, on Sept. 21, 2007. The
workshop was jointly organized by KatholiekeUniversiteit
Leuven, the International Peace Research Association
and the Graduate School of Physical Education, Kyung
Hee University in Korea. It was supported by the WTF
and GCS International.
The opening ceremony of the international forum was
held at the Monte Carlo Bay Hotel & Resort on Dec.
5, with the attendance of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of
“Peace and sport will strive to convince political
leaders, international organizations and key civil society
players that sport can widely contribute to peace,”
said Prince Albert II during the opening ceremony.
Peace and Sport is a world place initiative aimed at
promoting the structuring values of education through
sport, serving individuals and communities across the
world. It is an organization governed by Monegasque
law and settled in the Principality of Monaco.
Asian Taekwondo Qualification Tournament Kicks
Off in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam on Nov. 28 for 3-Day
The 2007 WTF Asian Taekwondo Qualification Tournament
for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games concluded successfully
on Nov. 30 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The three-day qualifying event, which was held at the
Phu Tho Stadium in downtown Ho Chi Minh City, attracted
83 contestants from 28 Asian countries and territories.
The tournament was officiated by 22 international
referees selected from among the 184 participants in
the WTF International Referee Training Camp held at
Woosuk University in Korea in July.
The opening day of the Asian qualifying tournament featured
two weight categories
of the men’s -58kg
and the women’s -49kg, while the following two
days featured three weight divisions each: the men’s
-68kg, the men’s +80kg and the women’s -67kg
(on Nov. 29); and the men’s -80kg, the women’s
-57kg and the women’s +67kg (on Nov. 30).
Through the Asian tournament, a total of 24 slots were
allocated. Each member national association was allowed
to field a maximum two male and two female contestants
out of four male and four female Olympic weight categories.
The top three athletes from each of the eight Olympic
weight divisions at the Asian qualifying event qualify
their National Olympic Committees a place in the respective
The results are as follows;
Men’s -58kg category
1st : Behzad Khodadad K. (Iran)
2nd : Rohullah Nikpai (Afghanistan)
3rd : Dech Sutthikunkarn (Thailand)
Women’s -49kg category
1st : Ha Giang Hoang (Vietnam)
2nd : Mae-Num Chirdkiatisak (Thailand)
3rd : Sara Khosh Jamal Fekry (Iran)
Men's -68kg category
1st : RASUL ABDURAIM (KYRGYZSTAN)
2nd : DMITRIY KIM (UZBEKISTAN)
3rd : YU CHI SUNG (CHINESE TAIPEI)
Men's +80kg category
1st : CHILMANOV ARMAN (KAZAKHSTAN)
2nd : VAN HUNG NGUYEN (VIETNAM)
3rd : AKMAL LRGASHEV (UZBEKISTAN)
Women's -67kg category
1st : NURKINA LIYA (KAZAKHSTAN)
2nd : MARY ANTOINETTE RIVERO (PHILIPPINES)
3rd : YORIKO OKAMOTO (JAPAN)
Men's -80kg Category
1st : HADI SAEI BONEHKOHAL (IRAN)
2nd : ABDUL QADER SARHAN (QATAR)
3rd : DEEPAK BISTA (NEPAL)
Women's -57kg Category
1st : PEI HUA TSENG (CHINESE TAIPEI)
2nd : HOAI THU NGUYEN THI (VIETNAM)
3rd : SHUEH FHERN ELAINE TEO (MALAYSIA)
Women's +67kg Category
1st : CHEW CHAN CHE (MALAYSIA)
2nd : NAKIN DAWANI (JORDAN)
3rd : EVGENIYA KARIMOVA (UZBEKISTAN)
Ceremonies Held for Award Winners of Overseas
Non-Korean Taekwondo Masters Essay Competition
A series of ceremonies have been held in Korea to
honor award winners of the Overseas Non-Korean Taekwondo
Masters Essay Competition.
The six-month essay contest, which started on March
1, 2007 until Aug. 31, was jointly organized by the
World Taekwondo Federation, the Taekwondo Promotion
Foundation and the Kukkiwon.
Out of 52 entries from 25 countries, the TPF-selected
Screening Committee selected 14 winning essays after
a month of evaluation.
On the occasion of the welcoming party for participants
in the World Taekwondo Hanmadang 2007, which was organized
by the Kukkiwon, the awarding ceremony of the Overseas
Non-Korean Taekwondo Masters Essay Competition, was
held at Hotel Ritz in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province, on Nov.
The grand prize of “the Korean Culture and Tourism
Minister Award,” went to Senegal’s Seck
Dame, who submitted his essay under the title “This
is the Life I have Chosen.”
The best award of “the Taekwondo Promotion Foundation
Chairman Award” was given to three people. Their
names and essay titles are Mrs. Haya Q. Karadsheh of
Jordan (“Teaching Taekwondo in a Different Way”),
Mrs. Anita Seo-Dornbach of the Netherlands (“To
Reach in the Moon”), and Mr. Muhktar Kadiri of
Ghana (“Eternal Passion: My Journey with Taekwondo”).
The special prize of “the World Taekwondo Federation
President Award” went to five people. They are
Mr. Thomas Eugene Perry of the United States (“Lessons
in Life: Lessons in Loyalty Learned through Taekwondo”),
Mr. Richard J. Botticello Jr. of the Unites States (“The
Martial Arts, My Church”), Mr. Abraham Hernandez
Garnica of Mexico (“The Village of the Children”),
Mr. Jack Rozinszky of Australia (“Journey of a
Lifetime”), and Mr. Perparim Ferunaj of Albania
(“Difficulties of Taekwondo Promotion in Albania”).
The special prize of “The Kukkiwon President
Award”) were presented to five people. They are
Mr. Norbert Mosch of Austria (“A Taekwondo Life”),
Mr. David Bailey of Scotland (“a Life Transformed”),
Mr. Felix Ayensu of Canada (“Taekwondo - An Ultimate
Test of Spirit that Turns Vision into Reality”),
and Mr. Sergio Chavez of Mexico (“Relection”).
On Nov. 3, a farewell dinner party hosted by the WTF
president for the award winners of the essay contest
was held at the Ramada Seoul Hotel in Seoul.
“Your strong love for and dedication to the promotion
of Taekwondo combined to help Taekwondo maintain its
Olympic status,” said Mr. Dai-soon Lee, vice president
of the WTF and chairman of the TPF, at the dinner party
on behalf of the WTF president.
He said, “In this regard, I ask for your continued
support for Taekwondo and the WTF.” “The
WTF will post your winning essays on the WTF Web site
and carry them in the WTF Taekwondo magazine, thereby
helping them be read by both the global Taekwondo family
and non-taekwondo people worldwide.”
While in Korea, the award winners watched several taekwondo
competitions, including the World Taekwondo Hanmadang,
the 2nd WTF World Taekwondo Poomsae Championships and
the 3rd Korea Open International Taekwondo Championships.
WTF African Taekwondo Qualification Tournament
Wraps Up in Resounding Success in Tripoli, Libya.
The WTF African Taekwondo Qualification Tournament
concluded in a resounding success in Tripoli, Libya
on Nov. 2, 2007. No protest was lodged during the two-day
Morocco earned three berths for the taekwondo competition
at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games after the two-day
WTF African Taekwondo Qualification Tournament.
Kenya, Nigeria and Cote d'Ivoire clinched two places
each for the Beijing Olympic Games through the African
Qualification Tournament, which took place at the African
Union Hall in downtown Tripoli. The tournament drew
77 players from 26 countries, with the attendance of
22 international referees.
Seven other countries won one ticket each for the 2008
Olympic Games. They are Gabon, Benin, Libya, Guinea,
Senegal, Tunisia and Egypt.
The final day of the African qualification tournament
featured four weight categories -- the men’s -58kg
and -80kg and the women’s -57kg and -49kg.
In the men’s -58kg category, Kenya’s Dickson
Wamwiri Wanjiku placed first, while Benin’s Ogoudjobi
Jean Moloise placed second.
In the men’s -80kg category, Cote d'Ivoire’s
Nguessan Sebastien Konan placed first, while Gabon’s
Lioner Bagule placed second, earning their countries
a berth each for the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.
In the women’s -57kg division, Cote d'Ivoire’s
Mariam Bah placed first, while Senegal’s Bineta
Diedhiou placed second.
In the women’s -49kg division, Kenya’s
Milka Akinyi placed first, while Morocco’s Ghizlane
Toudali placed second.
A total of 128 athletes are to compete in the taekwondo
competition of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games. Through
the WTF African Taekwondo Qualification Tournament,
the top two athletes from each of the eight Olympic
weight categories, totaling 16, qualify their national
Olympic committees to compete in the taekwondo competition
at the 2008 Olympic Games.
The immediate continental qualification tournament
is the WTF Asian Taekwondo Qualification Tournament
scheduled for Nov. 28-30 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
The Oceania qualification is slated for Dec. 1 in New
Caledonia; the Pan-American qualification on Dec. 8-9
in Cali, Colombia; and the European qualification on
Jan. 26-27, 2008 in Istanbul, Turkey.
Cyber Taekwondo Community Out to Attract Members Worldwide
-- TAGORA Homepage Kicks off UCC Contest
Korea's Taekwondo Promotion Foundation (TPF), along
with an online martial arts portal site, MOOKAS, held
a UCC video contest for taekwondo enthusiasts under
the theme "I Love Taekwondo."
The contest , which started from Nov. 10 to Dec. 10
and drew 184 entries from at home and abroad, aimed
to increase interest in taekwondo by sharing personal
and feelings about the sport, a TPF
The event came one month before the official opening
of a taekwondo community Web site TAGORA, a word made
by joining a "T" for taekwondo to the Greek
word "agora," which means public square.
The Web site opened on Dec. 10 and was intended to
be a cyber gathering place for the exchange of opinions,
feelings and information about taekwondo, the TPF official
Participants were requested to submit 30-second to
five-minute clips containing any kind of taekwondo experiences,
such as practice sessions or competitions, to www.tagora.kr
from Nov. 10 to Dec. 10.
A total of 35 winners were announced through the homepages
of TPF (www.tpf.kr) and TAGORA on Dec. 15.
The TPF was established in July 2005 under the aim
of improving and developing the global position of taekwondo
by building and managing a taekwondo park, and promoting
taekwondo to contribute to the national development.
According to the TPF, a 2 million-square-meter taekwondo
park will be established in Muju, North Jeolla Province
by 2013. Organizers hope that the park becomes a mecca
for taekwondo's estimated 60 million practitioners from
187 WTF member nations, the TPF official explained.
Cayman represented at 2007 Taekwondo qualifier
(Cayman Netnews) Harold Davis represented the Cayman
Islands at the 2007 World Taekwondo Federation Pan-Am
Taekwondo Qualification Tournament in Cali, Colombia
from Thursday 6 to Monday, 10 December.
Over 40 countries participated in this prestigious tournament,
which geared up qualifiers for the Beijing 2008 Olympic
Mr Davis has represented the Cayman Islands
in the past and has done tremendously well.
In 2000, he won a silver medal in fighting and bronze
medal in forms in Georgia, USA, despite two knee injuries
in the past that has damped his mental and physical
Accompanying Mr Davis was Ronald Wilson, Team Manager,
and Master Steve Graham, delegate.
Samsung Officially Sponsors African Taekwondo
Player Modibo Keita
Samsung officially sponsors the African Taekwondo
Qualification Tournament for the 2008 Beijing Olympic
Games, which took place from Oct. 31, 2007 to Nov.2
in Tripoli, Libya.
As part of the supporting activities, Samsung became
an official sponsor of an African taekwondo player,
Modibo Keita from Mali. Mr. Keita is the only African
player who is to participate in the Beijing Olympics
the World Qualification Tournament.
Mr. Keita and Samsung first formed a relationship when
he received "Samsung Blue Passion Award" at
the World Taekwondo Championships in Beijing in May
2007 for his excellent expression of the passionate
spirit of taekwondo.
Mr. Keita is globally recognized taekwondo player in
heavy weight (+84Kg) category, and has received several
gold medals in various competitions in the United States,
Spain, China, France, Ghana and etc. He is also famous
for his background human story to become a taewkondo
He is the real winner to express the spirit and passion
of taekwondo by overcoming his serious back pain which
is severe damage as a taekwondo player.
In Libya, he has a chance to meet his African fans
through his fan signing ceremony in the gymnasium and
participate in taekwondo clinics with a Samsung demonstration
team and encourage up-and-coming African taekwondo athletes.
The Samsung taekwondo demonstration team with Keita
met 300 school students and learners from taekwondo
clubs to give them dream and hope through taekwondo
demonstration and clinic from Nov.3 through 4.
Mr. Gyehyun Kwon, vice president and head of the Worldwide
Sport Marketing and Global Communications at Samsung
Electronics said, “Modibo Keita is the perfect
player who expresses Samsung’s sponsorship in
taekwondo by showing taekwondo spirit himself. I hope
our sponsorship becomes good opportunity to improve
taewkondo in African region.”
Sibling Rivalry Could Turn to Olympic History
for Lopez Family
By Chris Antonacci, STATS Writer
The Lopezes don't even talk about the historical ramifications.
They don't have to.
They spend enough time with each other to know they
all feel the same way. It's a feeling of pride - eclipsed
only by an overwhelming desire to seize a moment that
comes along once a century. Yes, this may be the their
chance to put a family stamp on the record
Coached by brother Jean, the Lopez trio of Steven,
Mark and Diana are trying to become the first three
siblings to qualify for the same U.S. Olympic team in
the same sport since 1904. If they are all going to
represent the U.S. in taekwondo in Beijing next summer,
this will likely be their best shot.
"Everything is falling into place," Jean
said. "Everyone is at an age where they have the
physical ability and mental fortitude to do it."
FIND MORE STORIES IN: BEIJING | Olympic team | Mark
| Diana | Lopez | Event | Lopezes
Theirs is a dream nearly 20 years in the making, dating
to when Jean, 34, and Steven, 28, sat in their living
room, watching the opening ceremonies of the 1988 Seoul
Games when taekwondo was unveiled as a demonstration
sport. They had already started to participate in the
martial arts by then, but that moment became a source
of their inspiration.
"We just thought it was awesome," said Steven,
a two-time reigning Olympic champion. "I made a
decision at that time. That's what I want to do. I knew
I wanted to be an Olympian."
Mark, 25, and Diana, 23, can't remember that far back,
but they became drawn to taekwondo by their brothers.
Their Sugar Land, Texas, garage soon became the family's
unofficial year-round dojo.
Their training now occurs in Jean's gym outside Houston,
more formal than when they relied on a running dryer
to provide heat for their winter training during their
Steven is the only one of the three to have actually
qualified for a spot on the Olympic team so far, and
it's apparent his efforts in trying to help Mark and
Diana make the squad is equal to his desire to bring
home another gold. The U.S. team will at most consist
of two men and two women.
"It's something that is within our reach,"
Diana said. "That could be the happiest day of
our lives. It's something we can all tell our children
about. This is the best thing for all of us."
Mark and Diana can secure their first Olympic appearance
if they place in the top three at the Pan-Am Olympic
Qualifier, held from Dec. 7-9 in Cali, Colombia.
Four years ago, the U.S. team only consisted of two
competitors. None of the siblings are certain where
they will be four years from now to make a run at London's
Games in 2012, so this may be their only chance.
"You never know what will happen," Mark said.
The previous set of three siblings to make the same
U.S. Olympic team in the same sport occurred when Edward,
Richard and William Tritschler all qualified in gymnastics
The Lopezes are aware of that history - and the pressure
that accompanies it. They already made some history
of their own in 2005 when they became the first set
of three siblings to win a world championship in the
Mark and Diana could have secured a spot in Beijing
had they each finished in the top three at the World
Taekwondo Qualification Event in September, but Mark
lost his bantam/featherweight quarterfinal match to
Korea's Son Tae Jin when he allowed the decisive point
with 5 seconds left in overtime. Diana also lost a quarterfinal
bout, 2-0, to Thailand's Premwaew Chonnapas.
But those setbacks haven't shaken their belief that
they will join Steven, who will compete in the light/welterweight
division, on the team.
"I am confident for my sister and I," Mark
said. "If we remain focused, we are confident we
Jean and Steven have helped them maintain that focus.
Taekwondo is a sport that requires balance, and there
aren't many who know that more than the Lopezes.
For Jean, who was at the 30 the youngest U.S. head
coach in Athens in 2004, he sometimes struggles to find
the correct times on when to be a brother or a coach.
For Steven, Mark and Diana, they know that the sport
demands physical contact, but the sibling rivalry in
sparring sessions sometimes borders on being too intense.
"We always seem to know right where the lines
are that we shouldn't cross," Jean said.
Every competition is emotional for Steven. He said
his family's presence makes him feel as if he has a
four-on-one advantage against each of his competitors.
When Steven watches his brother and sister compete,
though, his emotions swing with each point.
Training together has made the Lopezes close. They
each lead a lifestyle that requires dedication to their
training, conditioning and diets, and it's easier knowing
that they are all in it together.
"It can be lonely when you have this passion and
make all of these sacrifices," Steven said. "It
has never felt that bad because my family was always
around me doing the same things. We have never felt
alone. My best friends are in my family."
And that family is on the brink of Olympic history.