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USA Taekwondo 2000 - 2016: Summer Olympics Champions from Dana Hee to Diana Lopez

Updated on January 25, 2016

Rio 2016

Taekwondo and Paralympic Judo will be performed in the Barra Area.
Taekwondo and Paralympic Judo will be performed in the Barra Area. | Source

2016 Taekwondo and Paralympic Judo Venue

By Patty Inglish, Patron of the Diaspora Global Actions for Sports and Culture (DGASC) in Africa and USA Representative to the Supreme Council for Sports in Africa Zone-3. All Rights Reserved.

ExCel Exhibition Centre. Site of The Taekwondo events at the 2012 Summer Games.
ExCel Exhibition Centre. Site of The Taekwondo events at the 2012 Summer Games. | Source

Differences and Dissension

At this writing, I have been a Grandmaster for many years and a student of five martial arts for 30+ years. The 1988 Seoul Summer Olympics included Taekwondo as a demonstration sport, to the consternation of USA Karate, which had had an Olympic team ready for decades and were passed up for the media splashed Taekwondo. In 2012, a lingering sense of injustice still exists. Regardless, USA Taekwondo helped to make history during the summer of 1988.

In addition, Judo became part of the Summer Paralympic Games in 1988 as well. Taekwondo is not yet in the Paralympics, but I hope that it will be included in the future. Many martial arts styles can be performed from a wheelchair or while seated on the floor, including the sparring elements.

I was studying, writing, and practicing at the time for the 4th dan grading examination (4th out of 10 levels of black belt in my style). The test, except for written portions, would be administered outdoors in winter during the last weekends of January and February 1989. For the Seoul Summer Olympics, I watched with every eye alert, physical eyes and mental eyes all looking for the determination, calm, and stamina required to succeed throughout the levels of black belt.

The Opening Ceremony was grand, with hundreds of boards broken in succession to sound like a xylophone - I can hear them now as I write ( see video below). In 1988, sparring only was done as an event, sparring also the only part of the sport included in 2012. I was disappointed to see the native teams of Korea fight with hands down at their sides, but relieved that head, chest, and foot gear was worn. A broken arm was vivid during one match. This was not the sport I learned, but it was in the Olympics and part of the larger art.

Taekwondo has developed further and strengthened even in its own country after its first appearance in the Summer Olympics of 1988. See the evidence of that in the video below of 2012 skills.

Korean National Demonstration Team, 2012

Opening Ceremony

Dana Hee - 1988 Gold

A Baby Boomer born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dana Hee was featured all over the martial arts magazines of the 1980s and the 1990s. We also saw her in ads for martial arts supplies, and little girls wanted to be like her. Little did they know her backstory (see insert to right). She was a hero in more than one way.

In 1988, Ms. Hee won Gold in the Women's Lightweight Division of TKD. Half of the women's weight classes were won by Americans.

Other American women that won Gold:

  • Bantamweight: Debra Holloway - Gold
  • Welterweight: Arlene Limas - Gold
  • Heavyweight: Lynette Love - Gold
  • Debra Holloway - Silver
  • Mayumi Pejo - Bronze
  • Sharon Jewell - Bronze

Only one American man won Gold:

  • Heavyweight: Jimmy Kim - Gold
  • Juan Moreno - Silver
  • Han Won Lee - Bronze
  • Greg Baker - Bronze
  • Jay Warwick - Bronze

Deomonstration Sport - 1992 Barcelona Summer Games

Herbert Perez won Gold in the Middleweight division in the 1992 demonstration sport of Taekwondo. The sport would disappear from the Summer Olympics until it became an Official Medal Sport in 2000.

In 1992, Herbert was not the only American man to win:

  • Herbert Perez - Gold

Herbert Perez became a long-time coach and began an Olympic Training Program in Afghanistan. He is an attorney and holds several other advanced degrees as well as working in Foster City, California city government. He is the owner of two martial arts schools..

  • Juan Moreno - Silver

American women's victors:

  • Diane Murray - Silver
  • Danielle Laney - Bronze
  • Lynnette Love - Bronze
  • Terry Poindexter - Bronze

Dana Hee had become a sports commentator, stunt woman, and model as well as a motivational speaker and did not participate in the 1992 demonstration sport. She acted in Mortal Kombat and doubled for Star Trek's® Seven of Nine (Jeri Ryan), as well as hundreds of other performances.

Taekwondo An Official Sport at 2000 Sydney Summer Games

Weight classes were reduced from 8 down to 4 for both men's and women's divisions: Flyweight, Lightweight, Middleweight, and Heavyweight.

USA Taekwondo men winners:

  • Middleweight: Steven Lopez, GOLD

USA Taekwondo women winners:

  • None

Thus, America won a single Gold medal in this sport, while South Korea won the most of any nation: 3 Gold and 1 Silver.

2004 Athens Summer Games

Head Coach: Jean Lopez

American men winners:

  • Middleweight - Steven Lopez; GOLD

American women winners:

  • Nia Abdallah - Silver; first Official medal won by an American woman.

Nia lost a Sudden Death bout in Olympic qualifiers against Diana Lopez in 2008, losing a place on Team USA for the 2008 Summer Games. She and her attorney felt that the fight was rigged, because many qualifying strikes were disregarded by judges in the bout leading up to Sudden Death and in that final contest. See Nia Abdallah Interview at

2008 Beijing Summer Games - Lopez, Lopez, and Lopez

American performance improved during these Games to win the number two slot in number of medals won: 1 Silver and 2 Bronze, all won by the Lopez family. Korea won 4 Gold medals.

Head Coach: Jean Lopez, brother of the medal winners.

Team Leader: Herbert Perez

American men winners:

  • Lightweight: Mark Lopez; Silver
  • Middleweight: Steven Lopez; Bronze

American women winners:

  • Lightweight: Diana Lopez; Bronze

The Lopez family won all of the Taekwondo medals won by USA Taekwondo.

USA Taekwondo Olympic Members for 2012

The famous Lopez family that sent 3 members to the 2012 Summer Games to compete in Taekwondo includes 4 black belts that all teach in the family operated martial arts school in Sugarland, Texas. Texas is a top training state for Taekwondo in America and several of my Nigerian colleagues have sent students to train in Texas dojangs with good results.

USA Taekwondo Head Coach: Jean Lopez

Coach: Juan Moreno

Team USA Members, Taekwondo

  • Steven Lopez, Coach Jean Lopez
  • Diana Lopez, Coach Jean Lopez
  • Terrence Jennings, Coach Juan Moreno
  • Paige McPherson, Coach Juan Moreno


Why are the Lopezes so successful in the Olympics and Taekwondo?

First, they are committed to working together for one another and their teammates as family and team. Jean's father Julio enrolled him in the sport at age 8 and the entire family fell in line. While brother Mark did not make it through the Olympic Trials to qualify for Team USA 2012, he still worked with his siblings in preparation for the Summer Games.

Second, they believe in the American Dream. They moved to Texas from Nicaragua. They travel regularly to South American nations such as Brazil to conduct training workshops and to encourage the youth of those countries to develop goals and to succeed.

Steven may or may not compete in the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, but when he does retire, he will attend medical school. Since the 2016 games are in Rio De Janeiro, Brazil I do not see how Steven can pass up the opportunity to compete in South America as an example to the youth of that nation.

Best Wishes to USA Taekwondo in London July 27 - August 12, 2012!

But can they beat my colleagues from Nigeria this year? Nigeria Taekwondo Federation (NTF75) President, Bath Nnaji and the Northern Taekwondo Union Coordinator Steven Terlumun Adah stated that Nigeria is in position for Gold Medals in men;s divisions in 2012. The Nigerians gained a new coach this year, from Korea and salary paid by the South Korean government: see TEAM NIGERIA TAEKWONDO. Korea won 4 Gold Medals in Taekwondo in the last Summer Games.

TV Schedule of Taekwondo Events for 2012/Archives

Eastern Standard Time

August 09
MSNBC - 1.30 to 2.30 PM
August 10
NBC - 8.00 to 8.30 AM
August 11
NBC - 8.00 to 10.00 AM
August 11
MSNBC - 2.15 to 3.00 PM
Qualifying bouts in the men's +80kg and women's +67kg weight classes.

© 2012 Patty Inglish MS


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    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Pretty exciting, isn't it? Obame is a hero now.! The American results were completely not what we expected and the Nigerian showing was also a surprise. We'll see who competes in 2016.

    • prairieprincess profile image

      Sharilee Swaity 

      8 years ago from Canada

      Patty, I wanted to tell you that my husband and I watched the taekwondo championship on television, and it was quite dramatic. I had told my husband of your connection with the sport and it was exciting to know you were so closely involved at that level. That was great the Obame won the first medal for his country.

      Sharing this hub. Have a wonderful day!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Happily, you saw Jamaica in the TKD event, though. That's exciting! I will have a look at re-plays and medal tallies later today.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      8 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Patty, this morning while watching the Olympics I as shocked to see Jamaica in the Taekwondo! I had no idea we had qualified, that goes to show how much we are We lost to China in the preliminary round. I know the guy who fought. I am not sure if there are other member there.

      We aren't getting our coverage from the US, so we have been getting crappy coverage from another television station in the Caribbean.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      It was a lot of hard work and commitment, but worth every second!

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      That's awesome that taekwondo has saved lives. I bet there's a story there when you said that it's also saved your own.

      I realized I had a couple of typos in my response last night - it had been a long day and I was trying to catch up on some reading, but what I thought I had typed vs. what I actually had typed didn't quite match. Ha!

      People think your training is too difficult? Ha! I think people who rise to the challenge are the ones who'd show great potential. It's good for people to push themselves.

      I'm really glad to have gotten to know you on HP - what a great honor: a grandmaster!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Hi cclitgirl and thanks for reading. I am amazed to see that USA Judo finally won Gold and in a women's division to boot. USA Judo is rising. It is used among developmentally challenged people to good advantage as well, as in the Arnold Fitness and Sports Weekend every year in Columbus, Ohio. It is awesome to see.

      I have had a lot of success in treating muscle, bone and joint disorders with Taekwondo, helping a few people to discard their wheelchairs and keeping other people out of them. And that is only the tip of the iceberg. The phenomenal movement feats help to further develop the brain and immune system, among other things.

      Clips of The Korean Tigers demo teams of college, high school and youth divisions - including a unit of awesomely disciplined 8-year-olds - are great for giving the American public a sample of possibilities; and this is hugely only the tip of the iceberg.

      I may do a series of films or a book in the future, but for now, the only way to see me is to enroll in a class or private lessons. I must say that many think my material is too difficult, compared to other schools, but the training has saved lives - including my own. I was fortunate to have training in more than one martial art at once from grandmasters with decades of experience. We have a few of these in America, but only a few.

    • cclitgirl profile image

      Cynthia Calhoun 

      8 years ago from Western NC

      This hub is fantastic and inspirational. I meant to look at this earlier at the Olympics were commencing, but I'm especially glad I'm here given that judo is about to come on. It's so commendable that you're also so skilled taekwondo. That's incredible. This hub is so packed full with inspiration and it's so well written - you have many wonderful talents and I have to admit, it would be cool to see a video of you doing taekwondo at some point. :) Voted up and shared.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      kashmir56 - Tai Chi for many years will provide you many benefits! We have a large set of TKD movements that provide the same benefits when done in slow motion as Tai Chi. Very energizing, too. We have one woman at the Ohio State University that has taught Tai Chi Sword technique and I've never heard of another in the Midwest.

      forlanda - Thanks! I did not see any such post as this with the evolution of TKD through the Olympics. I marked my 30th year in the art/sport on July 11, 2012.

    • forlanda profile image

      J Forlanda 

      8 years ago from US of A

      Thanks for posting the resources related to the 2012 London Olympics on Taekwondo. I was going to do a search on it, and now I don't have to. Thanks for a very detailed post.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 

      8 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi Patty thanks for all this great information i really enjoyed reading it all. I have been doing every morning for eight in a half years Tai Chi . And i do it has an exercise to stimulate both the mind and body connection, which increases both strength and flexibility and natural well being in body and mind, i love it and it helps to start my day off right. Have you ever done Tai Chi ?

      Vote up and more !!!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Cardisa -- It is a shame that the Jamaican TKD team does not enter the Olympics; many of us would like to see them.

      I am thinking that some fans will record events, if cameras are allowed (and with cell phones anyway), and post some of the matches on YouTube. The videos would not be up for long, probably, because of IOC copyrights, but you might see one while it is posted.

      English verb tenses escape many people, even those who have been taught correctly. The lessons do not stick and that is frustrating to the rest of us.

      breakfastpop - I must say that Taekwondo cured all my back problems, helped my wrecked ankle heal after an accident, and helped me survive entrapment in severe wind and snow during a below-zero blizzard. I had the Korean training from recent immigrants of the day. Some American schools are quite good, but others teach intro courses in all sorts of martial arts, martial-style dance, and even aerobics and call it all TKD. Surprisingly, though, even many of those movements show value in an emergency or an attack.

    • breakfastpop profile image


      8 years ago

      This article is so interesting and you, my friend, are amazing. Up and awesome.

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      8 years ago from Jamaica

      Hi Patty. I have a friend and former boss who is a part of the Jamaica Taekwondo team. The Jamaican team has won many matches but have never entered the Olympics. They travel throughout the year and have beaten Canada, Korea and many other Teams.

      I see the Americans with quite a few medals in the sport and I figure that maybe this year they will take home a few more, even some gold medals as well.

      I wish I had cable to be able to watch the matches in the schedule you have because I know our national television wont be showing them. Or local station will be focusing on the track events, swimming, field events, boxing and maybe some gymnastics.

      Off topic. Did you know a lot of people, even writers do not know how to use the past particle of "had" the way you have used it when you said "which had had an Olympic team.......". I once used it in a short story I published here and my author friend who was helping me correct my work asked me to edit it and pointed it out as an error. I was really surprised.


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