Lopez family unsure on Olympic futures
Diana Lopez wants to compete at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in 2016 — on one very important condition.
"I want one of my brothers to be there with me," she said.
For the first time since taekwondo became a medal sport at the Olympics, that might not be guaranteed.
The London Games did not come remotely close to going how the Lopez family, who live in Texas and are the standard-bearers for taekwondo in the United States, envisioned they would.
Steven Lopez, the two-time Olympic champion, lost in the first round of the men’s under-80-kilogram division, thinking at first he was hampered by a bad ankle and finding out later that he actually had a broken leg.
Diana Lopez also lost in the first round of her bracket, the women’s under-57-kilogram class, and was also slowed by injury, a knee problem that has dogged her for months and that she aggravated on the day of her Olympic competition.
So the Lopezes limped home. After winning medals in 2000, 2004 and 2008, they had nothing to add to the collection from London.
”We feel no regrets,” said Jean Lopez, the oldest of the four siblings who make up the family’s fighting roster and the U.S. coach in London. ”Because of my family’s participation and the way they’ve carried themselves and represented our country, this sport owes them.”
The Lopez family has won five medals. Steven took gold in 2000 and 2004. Mark Lopez, who did not qualify for London but was a training partner, won silver in 2008. Steven and Diana won bronzes four years ago.
Steven Lopez will be 37 when the next Olympics rolls around, and he was the oldest of the 128 taekwondo competitors in London as it was. Diana Lopez will be 32 when the Rio Games open.
No one was saying for certain in London whether the Lopez run is over. But the numbers alone suggest it’s a possibility.
”It’s very difficult for me to even process where the end is,” Jean Lopez said. ”It’s like the curse of a cyclops in mythology: They understand and know when they’re going to die. Well, we don’t have that luxury. We don’t understand. We don’t know.”
The biggest priority is making sure his brother and sister get past the injuries that held them back in London.
”Right now, the most important thing to me is that they’re healthy and they recover,” Jean Lopez said. ”We’ll sit down as a family, make sense of everything, regroup and see what’s best for them.”
And even if there is no Lopez in Rio, the family might see another Olympics one day. Jean Lopez has two children and already has them pointed toward a future in the sport.
”The Lopez legacy will continue,” Jean Lopez said. ”That’s the only thing I’m going to say.”