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Taekwondo jin and Olympic hopeful Pauline Lopez shows wisdom that belies her years
profile and pic by rick olivares
When Pauline Louise Lopez won a series of medals for the Philippines in taekwondo events in the past several years, much was said about this Filipino-American being a prime example of beauty and skill. While the 19-year old Pauline blushes at the compliments, she respectfully brushes them aside like an opponent’s kick to say, “Somehow, I never think of that. If you worry about looks then you’re in the wrong business because takewondo is a tough sport. And you can get hurt.”
While California girls her age embraced the surf, soccer, or even basketball, taekwondo seemed like a natural fit for the Los Angeles-born Lopez. “My father, Efren Lopez Senior, was once on the Philippine national team. In fact, he was teammates with my current coach, Igor Mella. I was nine years old when my father saw that I had potential in taekwondo and I just never let go. But if you look at it, my roots are in the sport. And now, my life as well.”
“The sport has taught me so much,” she added. “I really don’t know how I would prioritize school without takewondo. The five tenets of courtesy, integrity, perseverance, self-control, and indomitable spirit have guided me in a lot of things that I do. So I place a lot of value on the sport."
After reaching the quarterfinals of the 2010 Guangzhou, China Asian Games, Pauline began to rack up medals in the Southeast Asian Games and the Asian Youth Games. “After the 2010 Asian Games, I realized that I could do well in the sport. Even when I didn’t such as that tournament in Egypt, it was all about learning from the experience and improving. I think if you accept that there are shortcomings then you know what you need to work on. If you don’t accept it then you cannot correct it. For some, they will say that I came up short. I look at it as a first step and the quarterfinals wasn’t so bad. It’s taking the learnings from that and improving on everything.”
Now, the five-foot-six lass has a chance of taking a bigger step and that is the Olympics. Next week, Lopez and some of her colleagues will be competing in the Asian Taekwondo Continental Qualifying Games for Rio at the Marriott Convention Center from April 16-20.
Looking at the biggest sporting event on the planet, Lopez revealed a wisdom that belies her youth, “Every athlete has dreams of winning medals or championships. Everyone would like to go to the Olympics too. But when you’re young, you focus more on the short term goals because you do have to make it first. When you get past that, the Olympic dream becomes more of a reality.”
“Remember when I said that how for some making the quarterfinals means coming up short? Well, the qualifiers
is not about winning or losing but giving my best and not giving up. I’m there to show everyone my best. And when you come up short, then you get back up and go it again."
“That’s life and one of the basic tenets of taekwondo — perseverance.”
|With Butch Morrison and Pauline Lopez|