McPherson made that last part true when she qualified for the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team for Taekwondo on Saturday by beating Nia Abdallah.
“I’ve always looked up to Nia because she went to the Olympics in 2004 and got silver,” McPherson said. “She used to be my icon when I was little. Now I’m fighting my icon.”
She did that very well. A kick to the body early in the first round put McPherson up by one. She added a kick to the head as time expired to take a commanding 4-0 lead. She ended the second round up 5-0.
Abdallah rallied in the third round, scoring a kick to the head and another to the body to make it 5-4, but her comeback stalled there, sending McPherson to her first Olympics.
“The last round it hit me with my nerves,” she said. “Luckily, I stayed strong and won.”
Also qualifying at the Olympic Training Center were two of the three Lopez siblings, Diana and Steven. Diana scored a 3-1 win over Danielle Holmquist and Steven beat T.J. Curry 5-4. The final member of Team USA will be Terrence Jennings, who was taken to a deciding third match by Mark Lopez where Jennings won 1-0.
“It is bittersweet,” said Diana Lopez, referring to Mark’s loss. “For me it’s a family affair. I was happy but I still wasn’t as satisfied as I wanted.”
But while the Lopezes are a family unified by taekwondo, the McPhersons are as diverse as it gets. Paige is Korean and African-American, Hannah is African-American, Evan is full Korean, Aaryn and Graham were both born in South Dakota and are part native-American.
“They’re only multicultural because of their color,” said Dave McPherson, who with his wife Susan, are the parents. “They’re South Dakotans. They had to do odd jobs around the house and get good grades and everything else.”
Ironically, it was the multicultural makeup of the family that got Paige McPherson into taekwondo in the first place.
“Evan is Korean,” said Paige, who was adopted by the McPhersons when she was 4 days old. “My parents started him first in taekwondo because it’s a Korean sport and when I was younger, I always wanted to do what my older brother did.”
She was just 6 at the time and a bit too hyper for the discipline of martial arts. It was the same when she tried again six months later. The third time, it took and her talent for the sport was apparent immediately.
“I stuck with it and was like, ‘I’m going to give it my all and see how far I can go,’” she said. “Now I’m on the Olympic team.”
By The Gazette