Thursday, September 28|
Back kick connects late for a key point
SYDNEY, Australia -- Steven Lopez came from behind Thursday
in the final round to win the United States' first Olympic gold
medal in taekwondo, the Olympics' newest sport.
"I'm just so happy," Lopez said. "It's the first time it's an
official sport and I did it -- the first official gold medal for the
Lopez, of Sugarland, Texas, had only one point scored on him in
his three preliminary bouts and went into the final the favorite
against South Korean champion Sin Jun-sik.
But he fell behind early in the first round, when Sin scored
with a head kick.
"He did a flurry of kicks, I'm not exactly sure which one
hit," he said.
Lopez, who is 6-foot-2, used his longer reach well to keep Sin
at bay, but was unable to score until just one minute was remaining
in the third round.
"I hadn't thrown a back kick all day and I knew it was time,"
he said. "I knew I had to go for it and I did. I set it up and it
The kick connected to tie the bout 1-1 and that was the score
when the period ended. Lopez, 21, was declared the winner because
Sin had penalties. Hadi Saeibonehkohal of Iran won the bronze.
Lopez' medal in the karate-like sport, which is making its debut
as an official Olympic event, eases some of the disappointment for
the U.S. team. Its most favored member, Kay Poe, was upset in the
opening round of the women's flyweight division Wednesday.
Poe won her position on the four-person taekwondo team after she
hurt her knee in the U.S. Olympic trials and her friend, Esther
Kim, decided to forfeit her own place on the team to allow Poe to
In the other bout Thursday, South Korea's Jung Jae-eun won the
women's under 57-kilogram division, defeating Tran Hieu Ngan of
Vietnam. The silver was the first medal Vietnam has ever won in the
Olympic Games. Hamide Bikcin of Turkey won the bronze.
|Stephen Lopez, left, lands a kick to the midsection of Australia's Carlo Massimino.
Former world No. 1 fails to medal in taekwondo