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Top taekwondo stories to watch in Rio

Wu Jingyu
IOC

Top taekwondo stories to watch in Rio

Five stories to follow in the world of taekwondo during the Olympics

With the 2016 Rio Games just days away, here are five stories to keep an eye on when taekwondo competition gets underway.

Wu Jingyu goes for record third straight gold

Day 12 (Wednesday, Aug. 17)
Women's 49kg (108 lbs)

China's Wu Jingyu could make history in Rio. If she wins her third straight Olympic title, she will become the first taekwondo athlete to ever win three gold medals. Wu enters this year's Games as the No. 1 ranked flyweight.

Men's featherweight loaded with Olympic medalists

Day 13 (Thursday, Aug. 18)
Men's 68kg (150 lbs)

Three fighters who won Olympic medals at a lower weight class in 2012 have since bumped up to the 68kg division, creating a stacked field for Rio. The tournament will include reigning 58kg champion Joel Gonzalez of Spain, reigning 68kg champion Servet Tazegul of Turkey, 2012 silver medalist Lee Dae-Hoon of South Korea and 2012 bronze medalist Alexey Denisenko of Russia.

Aaron Cook changes nations, hopes to avenge 2012 snub

Day 14 (Friday, Aug. 19)
Men's 80kg (176 lbs)

Despite being ranked No. 1 in the world at 80kg entering the 2012 Games, Aaron Cook was bypassed for Great Britain's Olympic taekwondo team in favor of Lutalo Muhammad (the world No. 7 at a higher non-Olympic weight class). This created a rift between athlete and federation that proved to be irreparable. Cook, who had previously competed for Great Britain at the 2008 Games, refused to compete again for his home country and ended up gaining Moldovan citizenship last year.

Cook, currently the No. 2 ranked fighter at 80kg, hopes to avenge 2012's rebuffing by earning the first ever gold medal for his adopted country of Moldova. Among the fighters he may have to go through: former teammate and rival Muhammad, who ended up earning bronze four years ago in London.

Steven Lopez competes in fifth Olympics

Day 14 (Friday, Aug. 19)
Men's 80kg (176 lbs)

It has been quite the career for Steven Lopez, who will be competing at the Olympics for the fifth time. His three Olympic taekwondo medals are already tied for most ever, and he could eclipse that mark with a strong showing in Rio. At the London Games, an injured Lopez failed to earn a medal for the first time in his Olympic career. Now 37 years old, this could be his final chance to add to his impressive medal collection.

Who is… Steven Lopez

Taekwondo's most decorated athlete will be competing at his fifth Olympics.

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Will the United States medal streak remain alive?

Days 14-15 (Aug. 19-20)

Ever since taekwondo was first added to the Olympics in 2000, the United States has won at least one medal each year. This year, there are four athletes on the U.S. taekwondo team looking to continue the streak: welterweights Steven Lopez and Paige McPherson on Day 14, and heavyweights Stephen Lambdin and Jackie Galloway on Day 15. Recent results have been particularly promising for McPherson and Galloway – both women won bronze at last year's world championships and gold at last year's Pan American Games.

Who is… Jackie Galloway

In 2012, she was an alternate for Mexico. In 2016, she will represent Team USA in taekwondo at the Olympics.

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