Steven Lopez, 5 times World champion: "I still feel I can win"
Steven Lopez (born November 9, 1978) is considered by most experts as the best Taekwondo athlete ever. His records prove it: 2000 and 2004 Olympic Gold medalist and 2008 Olympic Bronze medalist. In 2001, he won his first World Championship and repeated as gold medalist in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009, which makes him the first Taekwondo fighter to win 5 World Championships.
Steven attends WTM before competing tomorrow Friday June 30 at Muju 2017 World Champs for the Men’s -80 kg crown.
Q: How do you feel before competing in your 9th World Championships?
– A: As you said, it is my 9th World Championships, the first I took part in was in 1997, so I am happy and thankful for the opportunity. Being here is great, Korea is the birthplace of Taekwondo and it is my first time at Taekwondowon. Also, the first time I won a gold medal in the event was in 2001 in Korea, so that makes it a special place. Hopes and aspirations are to become World Champion again, I feel good to get my sixth WC, so we’ll have rock and roll on Friday.
Q: What’s your opinion about Taekwondowon?
– A: Taekwondowon facilities are top of the line, it’s beautiful, a huge tourism attraction. I love that Taekwondo has made a place like this, the Mecca of our sport. It brings me pride that I am able to see something like this.
Q: Looking at the draw, who do you see as an obstacle for the medals?
– A: Nowadays, there’s not a single athlete you can discount. Everybody wants to win. Anybody can beat you. Look at the Olympics in Rio, Ivory Coast won the gold medal and nobody expected that. This is not like track and field, where some countries have not a single chance to win, Taekwondo is global.
Q: Who do you think are the favourites for the medals?
– A: Ivory Coast, of course, after 2016’s success. Azerbaijan… and Iran and Korea will always be dangerous no matter who represents them.
Q: What’s the secret for still being competitive at 38?
– A: I simply love Taekwondo. I feel like I am still competitive. I have tried to give my best all my life, my work ethic is what led me here and I think that the amount of time in which you can compete for a World Championships is short, so I thank god for having the opportunity to fight for it again.
Q: What do you enjoy the most?
– A: The feeling you have when you win, the personal challenge, the physical challange, the mental challenge. All of that.
Q: Do you see yourself retiring at some point?
– A: A long time ago I decided to take it year by year, and that’s what I am doing. I also have other businesses in my everyday life, but Taekwondo is what makes me feel most alive. Every time I stepped on the ourt I feel like I can win, so why not keep doing it?
Q: Do you think you’ll be able to make it to Tokyo 2020?
– A: In 2000, my first Olympics in Sydney, I thought it was going to be my first and last time at the competition and I would become a doctor. But listening to the anthem on the podium with the gold medal was just too special. I thought I could die that day. I want to feel it again. And look, here I am again 5 Olympics later, so who knows…
Pau Aguilar, Muju