The following article was submitted by Erin Hazard and edited.
On Thursday, as members of the Maryland State Taekwondo team arrive early in the morning for summer camp, they will anxiously be awaiting the results of Olympian Terrence Jennings’ first match of the 2012 Olympic games in London—hoping for the opportunity to watch his next round at their Olympic viewing party.
Jennings, who hails from Alexandria, Va., met with the local students from Vuong’s competition team in Dallas during the 2012 National Taekwondo Championships last month. Jennings, who was in full Olympic training with the USA team at the time, took pictures with the young athletes and spoke with them about the importance of working hard towards their goals.
The moment was a special one for this team of local young athletes (ages 7-15) who had been training three to four hours a day for months in preparation for the national championships.
“It’s was such a privilege for our kids to have met Terrence and now to watch him as he competes for a medal in London,” said Maryland State Taekwondo President Senior Master Chien Vuong. “They all have the potential to be the next Terrence. They can dream big and be inspired to work even harder.”
The brackets are now set for the taekwondo competition at the 2012 London Olympic Games and will get underway on Wednesday, Aug. 8 at the ExCel Centre in East
London. The U.S. team will begin action on Thursday, in both the men's -68kg and women's -57kg divisions.
Jennings will be the first to take the mat for team USA in the men's -68kg class Thursday morning. He will face Turkey's Servet Tazegul at 4:15 a.m. Eastern Time). Tazegul, the 2011 world champion, 2009 world bronze medalist and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist, is the top seed in the division.
While Jennings is a long shot to win, his journey is an inspiration for young Taekwondo students throughout the region as they get ready for the fall competition season.
“It’s a lot of work,” said nine-year-old Crofton resident Cole Hazard who won the gold for sparring in his age and weight division at the 2012 National Championships. “Terrence didn’t always get to do things with his friends or eat what he wanted when all his friends were eating pizza, but he’s gets to be a champion. Hard work pays off.”
Maryland’s State team featured many talented female competitors who dominated at this year’s nationals and who are anxious to see Team USA’s ladies in competition. Also on Thursday, 2008 Olympic bronze medalist Diana Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) will compete at 7:30 a.m. Eastern Time) against China's Hou Yuzhuo, winner of the last two world championships in that weight class. Lopez and Hou have never faced each other in international competition.
“It’s exciting to see the number of female athletes starting in Taekwondo skyrocketing. And a Diana Lopez or Paige McPherson just might be their Gabby Douglas,” Vuong said.
Additional Viewing Times
On Friday, Aug. 10, three-time Olympic medalist and two-time Olympic champion Steven Lopez (Sugar Land, Texas) will lead off the day at 9:15 a.m. local time (4:15 a.m. Eastern Time) against the tournament's top seed, Ramin Azizov of Azerbaijan, in the men's -80kg division. Azizov is a bronze medalist from the 2011 world championships but has never faced Lopez in competition.
Also on Friday, Paige McPherson (Sturgis, S.D.) will open up against Great Britain's Sarah Stevenson in the women's -67kg division at 10:30 a.m. local time (5:30 a.m. Eastern Time). Stevenson is a two-time world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. This will mark the first meeting between McPherson and Stevenson.