Local Taekwondo Athlete's Unique Effort to Compete at Tokyo Olympics

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It takes a lot of planning to get to earn a spot to compete in the Olympics.

For Stephen Lambdin, the pandemic hasn’t been the only challenge the North Texas Taekwondo athlete has had to fight.

“It’s definitely been an interesting year and a half. Not just from trying to essentially jump ship and compete for another country, but the training in general to prep has been a masterclass in dealing with adversity,” Lambdin said.

He hoped to compete with Team USA for a second time at the Tokyo Olympics, but that isn’t going to happen.

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“Team USA didn’t qualify my weight category for this Olympics, so team USA was basically ineligible for me to go,” Lambdin said. “For the past year and a half, I have been working to get one of few countries to take me to a European Olympic qualifier in May.”

In order to do that, the Colleyville native must get a passport from one of those countries. That task is easier said than done as the pandemic still has many national offices closed. That isn’t the only issue though.

“I have to find a country that doesn’t have someone in my weight division that they are already sending and that has the open slots. They are only allowed to send so many people to an Olympic qualification,” Lambdin said.

It’s not unheard of for American athletes to compete for other countries.

According to the International Olympic Committee’s charter, an athlete must be a national of the country they are trying to compete for. That’s why he’s currently working to get a passport with another country.

The charter also stipulates the athlete can participate in the Olympics for a new country if it’s been three years since the athlete last represented the former country. Lambden meets that requirement.

Lambdin was six years old when he started his journey in Taekwondo. He said it was because he wanted to be a Ninja Turtle, but the meaning now is so much bigger than cartoons.

“Frankly, I don’t just owe it to myself anymore. I owe it to all the people who have supported me for so long,” Lambdin said. “If it were an ideal world, I would fight for Team USA for the rest of my life. I’ve put entirely too much into this to not see it through on a technicality.”

Lambdin is fighting against time now. The European Qualifier is May 10. He must get the passport with another country before then to have a shot at Tokyo.

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