Taekwondo Preview

American athletes have medaled at every Olympic Games since taekwondo was added to the Olympic program in 2000, winning nine total medals since the sport’s debut. A pair of athletes, one an Olympic medalist and the other a teenager making her first Olympic appearance, will attempt to keep that streak alive.

Back for the Olympic Games in Tokyo is two-time Olympian and 2012 Olympic bronze medalist Paige McPherson. McPherson became the first U.S. taekwondo athlete to secure an Olympic spot, qualifying by virtue of her No. 6 world ranking in January 2020. The woman nicknamed “McFierce” competes in the 67 kg. weight class.

The newcomer to the Games is 18-year-old Anastasija Zolotic. Zolotic earned her Olympic spot also via ranking as the No. 7 athlete at 57 kg. in March 2020 as a 17-year-old. Just months earlier, Zolotic became the youngest American fighter to capture a medal at a taekwondo grand prix event, capturing a bronze medal at the June 2019 event in Rome. 

Updated on June 21, 2021. For more information, contact the sport press officer here.


• Anastasija Zolotic represents the future of USA Taekwondo, having started competing in taekwondo at the age of 7 at an after-school program. It wasn’t until 2017, however, when she earned a gold medal at the Junior Pan American Championships, that she began to realize she had a future in the sport. In the fall of 2018, Zolotic traveled to Argentina for the Youth Olympic Games, and despite suffering a broken hand in her first match, she persevered to win the silver medal. 

• The U.S. has medaled in taekwondo at every Olympic Games since the sport was added to the Olympic program in 2000 but hasn’t won a gold medal since 2004. American fighters have won a total of nine Olympic medals — two golds, two silvers and five bronzes — in five Games.

• Taekwondo made its debut as an official medal sport at the Olympic Games Sydney 2000, and has since reached nearly 70 million practitioners worldwide. The sport is constantly evolving, including with the recent introduction of new equipment to make for a fairer adjudication process. In 2015, the World Taekwondo introduced several new measures to increase excitement surrounding the sport, including octagonal mats, three points for a spinning kick to the body and sensors within athlete headgear.

• Paige McPherson, 30, won an Olympic bronze medal in 2012 and has had her share of international success since competing at her second Olympic Games in 2016. McPherson captured two grand prix bronze medals in 2017 as well as a silver medal at the 2017 world championships. She scored her first grand prix gold medal at the 2018 event in Taiwan. In 2019, McPherson competed at the 2019 Pan American Games in Lima, Peru, where she fought her way to the finals and captured a silver medal for Team USA. Towards the end of 2019, McPherson took bronze at the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Finals in Moscow.

• Anastasija Zolotic had her breakthrough international moment when she became the youngest U.S. fighter to capture a medal at a taekwondo grand prix event when she won a bronze medal at the June 2019 grand prix in Rome. As the World Taekwondo Grand Prix Series continued, Zolotic later went on to compete at the Grand Prix Finals, the last tournament in the series. Zolotic captured bronze, defeating world No. 1-ranked and two-time Olympic gold medalist Jade Jones from Great Britain. Zolotic competed at the 2019 Pan American Games in Peru, where she captured gold for Team USA. In March of 2020, Zolotic competed at the Pan Am Olympic Qualifiers in Costa Rica, where she won and qualified her division for the Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, later claiming that spot herself.

• July 25, 2021: Olympic competition is held in Anastasija Zolotic’s 57 kg. weight class 
• July 26, 2021: Competition is held in Paige McPherson’s 67 kg. weight class