In celebration of the upcoming 2012 Olympic games, the Post caught up with members of a very impressive family who will represent the red, white, and blue in London this July. It will be nothing new to the Lopez siblings—Jean, Mark, Diana, and Steven—as at least one member of the family has been taking home medals in taekwondo for the better part of two decades.
In 1995, the oldest sibling Jean won silver at the World Championships. He retired in 1998—after winning medals at more than 30 competitions—to focus on coaching his brothers and sister.
When the sport officially became part of the Olympics in 2000, younger brother Steven qualified and took home the gold. He repeated that accomplishment in 2004 and won bronze in 2008.
Joining Steven in 2008, Diana and Mark jumped into the family act by taking home a bronze and silver medal, respectively.
All four will be present this year–Jean as coach, Mark as both a training partner and alternate, and Diana and Steven as competitors. The Post was able to catch up with Diana and Steven for this Web exclusive interview:
On what it’s like to be in the Lopez family:
Diana: Growing up with 3 older brothers, I always had to be competitive just to be on the same mat. I always pushed myself really hard to be competitive. And my family is very competitive—whether it’s soccer, volleyball, video games, we all want to win. But it’s all friendly. We want what’s best for one another at the end of the day.
Something that we always remember is where our parents came from–Nicaragua–which is a third world country. We were born in Houston. My parents always told us never to take anything for granted and taught us how to be humble and grounded. And the future looks bright: my niece Alyxandra just turned 13 and is a junior champion in her own right. If the younger members of our family want to continue, they’ll have Olympic champion aunts and uncles to help. We’re the perfect family to help guide and push them to reach their goal.
Steven: We push each other. There’s a healthy competitiveness. When my brother made the national team at 17, I said ‘I’m going to be younger and better,’ and I made it at 15. I did it for him, because he always had aspirations, but he didn’t have an opportunity (the first year taekwondo was an Olympic sport it did not have a competition in Jean Lopez’s weight class). It’s a difficult, lonely, and hard road to be the best, and when you have teammates who are your siblings, it makes it easier. You all make the same sacrifices, and it’s a huge advantage because we’re traveling together so we always have home court.
On what motivates them:
Diana: It’s my own personal drive and will to keep going. We only have a short amount of years. I’m 28, and this is the time where I should be driving to be the best. I learned from my parents. They have a great work ethic, and they were always working hard for what was best for me.
Steven: I think largely it’s love of the sport; the joy in training. That hasn’t changed. I’ve been doing this for 28 years, and at times you don’t feel like waking up and training, but I still love the sport and want to compete at the Olympic level and to be the best. Being on that first place podium is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever felt.
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