Friday, August 10, 2012
Steven Lopez still in bronze hunt
LONDON -- There will be no taekwondo gold for the Lopez family at the London Olympics.
And for the first time since the Korean martial art became a full medal sport at the games, there might not be any medal at all -- hardly the result the longtime flag bearers for the sport in the United States came to the Olympics expecting.
Two-time Olympic champion Steven Lopez of the U.S. lost his first-round match in London on Friday, beaten 3-2 by Ramin Azizov of Azerbaijan, the No. 1 seed in the men's under-80-kilogram tournament. Lopez could still make the medal round, depending on how Azizov advances through the bracket.
But the best he can hope for now is bronze, which is what he left the Beijing Games with as well.
That's hardly a sure thing. First, for Lopez to have a shot at bronze, Azizov would have to make the gold-medal match. And on top of that, U.S. coach Jean Lopez -- the oldest of the four Lopez siblings who have starred in the sport for two decades -- said he may decide to withdraw his brother from the Olympics because of an ankle injury.
"There's a minimum baseline he has to show first," said Jean Lopez, who said the decision on whether his brother can keep fighting would be his own.
The Lopez family has won five medals at the Olympics -- gold for Steven in 2000 and 2004, a silver for Mark Lopez at Beijing in 2008, and bronzes for Steven and Diana four years ago as well.
That streak could end in London. It has been a difficult two days for the Lopezes, with injury issues compounding the losses.
Steven Lopez's first-round loss comes a day after his sister, Diana Lopez, lost a first-round bout in the women's under-57-kilogram bracket to eventual silver medalist Hou Yuzhuo of China. USA Taekwondo spokesman Bill Kellick said Diana Lopez felt a "pop" in her left knee during a repechage-round fight Thursday night, when she lost to fall from medal contention.
Jean Lopez said Diana Lopez, whose Olympics are over, will have an MRI on Friday, and added that she's been dealing with a meniscus issue for about three months. She aggravated the injury before her first fight on Thursday, Jean Lopez said.
And earlier this week, Steven Lopez was not at an open U.S. team training session because of what was described as a minor ankle injury. Jean Lopez acknowledged Friday that the ankle issue with his brother has been going on for about two weeks.
"It has not been easy," Jean Lopez said.
Steven Lopez took a 1-0 lead over Azizov after the first 2-minute period, then gave up two points in the final moments of the second and did not lead again. Azizov extended the lead to 3-1 early in the third, then held on from there.
Steven Lopez, like his sister, was unseeded at the London Games, which meant he had a tougher-than-expected first round opponent. The draw for the Olympics was based in large part on the world rankings, and the Lopez family tends not to participate in many international events -- the ones that play the biggest role in the ranking system.