Interview with Silver-Medalist Olympian, Nia Abdallah, by Tolu Olorunda.
Nia Abdallah is the 2004 US Silver Medalist in Taekwondo. She is also the first woman from the United States to earn a medal in this sport since it became an official Olympic sport. She is the first African-American to win a medal in the sport and she also holds the record for the most points ever scored in a Taekwondo Olympic competition. Abdallah’s Olympic dream began at the age of five. She began Taekwondo at the age of 9 and has since become a third degree black belt. She earned her first major international win in 1997 at the 11th Annual U.S. Cup Taekwondo Championships, where she captured a gold medal in breaking. Abdallah has also won international events in Peru and Canada, as well as winning two senior National Championships. In 2004, she was named, "USA Taekwondo's 2004 Female Athlete of the Year." With such an accomplished history, nothing could be more insulting to the integrity and conscience of an athlete, than to be robbed of a justified and deserved victory. In early 2008, Nia Abdallah fought a well-known competitor, Diana Lopez, in a qualifying match for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The fight began like any other ordinary athletic exercise, but before long, certain elements of the Abdallah v. Lopez match would resonate as unsettling and disturbing. Onlookers, coaches and supporters took note of the fact that within the regular fighting rounds, no scoring points we're awarded to either player, regardless of the many head-shots and practical knockdowns. In the sudden-death round, Diana Lopez was shockingly pronounced the winner. To Nia Abdallah, her lawyer, her parents, supporters and friends, the fight was rigged, and the alleged victor was pre-determined before the actual fighting began. The family and friends of Nia are at the moment in a legal tug-of-war with the USOC. They are demanding amongst other things, a review of the fight, and a Judicial Report on it. I had the opportunity to speak to both Nia Abdallah and her parents, on the issues revolving around this historical battle against a system of injustice:
Thanks for joining us Nia. Can you inform us of your background, and the lead-up to the 2004 Olympic Silver victory?
Well, basically I started my Olympic dreams when I was about 4 years old. My grandfather introduced me to the Olympic movement and its significance, and I told my mom that I wanted to win the Olympics. And then she made an effort to help me get into sporting activities. At the time, I didn't know what sport I would play, but I knew I wanted to win the Olympics. When I became 9 yrs. old, I convinced my mom to permit me to get involved in Taekwondo -- by telling her that it would help me with discipline, self-defense and other great things. When I started, I won most of my tournaments; but when I first lost, I understood that you have to lose to win. When I graduated from High School, I had the choice of going to the military, the Olympic Training Center, or college, so I decided to pursue my Olympic dreams and go to the Olympic Training Center. When I went up there, I won the National Tournament, and it gave me the opportunity to go to the Olympics. After a couple of bouts with Diana Lopez, which I won, I then went to Athens in 2004, and won the Silver Medal.
Can you speak on the background of Diana Lopez and the influence of the Lopez family in general?
Well, a lot of people don't know this, but in 2000, the Lopez family was in the media saying that they we're going to be the "first family of Taekwondo" -- meaning that they would all compete in the 2008 Beijing Olympics together. One of the Lopez brothers is an AAC board member -- the board that makes the rules for the selection process. So, the family was in play with that much power, and they already had AT&T and The Jay Leno Show in the works before the Olympic trial, in order to promote their dynasty.
Can you give us a landscape view of the 2008 Qualifying Match with Diana Lopez -- for those who haven't seen it?
Basically, we went up to 3 or 4 rounds without any score points. And, seeing that we we're both world competitors, I could not understand why there were no points accrued initially in the span of the match. When I kicked her and she fell, there were no deductions, and it is definitely worth seeing the fight, because the tape proves itself. I urge everyone to go to my BlogSpot and MySpace page to view it, because she won by illegitimacy.
What are you advocating for, and why?
We are fighting for these injustices to stop, and most people look over it because it has become a staple in professional sports, but slaves could have said the same thing about their condition. We want everybody to know that together, we can change the system.
Are you asking for reinstatement or a rematch?
Well, with the time frame, it is not probable that I would be going to Beijing. So, it's a small chance that I would still be present at the Olympics, but I'm fighting so that no one else has to go through the same experience I went through...
In light of this, are you going to keep on fighting?
Yes. I'm going to fight until I can't fight no more.
So far, what strides have been made in this battle, and can you speak on the resistance of Mainstream Media to document your story?
Well, we now have a coalition that supports us and we've made several radio appearances. But I also think the media is not covering the story because they don't want people to know about this.
What is your advice for any aspiring young black female athletes, who might be discouraged, giving the context of what you just experienced?
I tell people - who tell me I worked hard for nothing - that because of my hard-work, I am where I am today. I also believe that everything happens for a reason, and God's plan is always the most important factor. I've also come to the realization that maybe it wasn't intended for me to win this fight. If I had won, everything would have continued uninterrupted, and people would still be experiencing the kind of mistreatment that I went through; so, I advice young athletes to never get discouraged. My life motto is "If what you did yesterday seems big, you haven't done anything today." It is a motivation to push me to work harder.
How does it feel to have been in the audience and watched your daughter cheated out of her due?
Mr. Duhart: Well, that wasn't the first time. When Nia fought Diana Lopez in August last year, and beat her twice, I could see what they we're trying to do to her. Nia had dominated those fights, and I had never seen her fight that good before. After seeing the injustice of Nia not getting any points for her head-shots, her coach got up and protested, but the referee told him to sit back down. In the fights she had with Diana Lopez, they had the same referee for both fights, and I was upset about that. I believe that she is the best female Martial Arts fighter in the country, and they are denying her the rights to fight and represent her country in the Olympics; it's pretty sad.
When you witnessed these incidents in her fights with Diana Lopez, did you report those irregularities to the committee?
Mr. Duhart: Yes, I went to my Congress people, wrote letters in arbitration and wrote articles in the newspaper, but nobody was willing to listen. We got fed up after a while, because we went to court and regardless of what we did, their mind was made up, because they wanted the story of three siblings in the Beijing Olympics, and the coach as their brother.
Mrs. Duhart, can you respond to the same question of being in the audience and watching the injustice rendered to your daughter?
Mrs. Duhart: It was like watching your child being raped in public. Like my husband said, we went to federal court, and they sent us to arbitration court. They also let us know that even if we won, they would hold us up in court for years; they have that kind of power. They put everything under the field of play, and the committee's Lawyer said that whatever goes on in the field of play is final. And so, even if we witnessed some wrongdoing, we couldn't complain, unless we saw bribery taking place or a broken machine.
What has been the response of the US Olympic Committee since the incident?
Mr. Duhart: Their response has been to pull down the fights from YouTube, in the hope that it would go away.
Mr. Duhart, what was the driving force behind introducing Nia to the sport of Taekwondo, at the age of 9?
Mr. Duhart: Well, at the age of 9, Nia reminded me of my big sister, who was a very skinny kid. She would go to school, and other kids picked on her because of her size. But Nia has always had the heart of a lion, and she would face anybody at anytime. I wanted to make sure that she had the skills to protect herself, so she didn't have to fight. With regard to the case of Diana Lopez, this story needs to be told. She is a record-breaking young lady, and the best that this sport has to offer. She is the first woman from the U.S. to win a medal since it became an official Olympic Sport. She is also the youngest to win a match, and the first African-American to go to the Olympics for this sport. She has broken a lot of records, and some people are trying to hide these facts. When she fought in the Olympics, she fought with a fractured foot and a lot of pain. When she won the Silver Medal in 2004, she was unhappy, and she fought better to get better, and so, to be treated in this manner after her hard-work is a disgrace.
In light of that, do you share some of the sentiments expressed by Richard Williams - father of Tennis Champions, Serena and Venus Williams - with regard to impartiality against Black Women in the world of professional sports?
Mr. Duhart: Of course; I guarantee you that if Nia was white; she would get all the publicity and accolade that should come with her skill level.
What are your hopes for the future, and how can the general public contribute in this struggle for Nia Abdallah?
Mrs. Duhart: First of all, I want to add to what my husband said. In August 2005, Nia delivered a baby, and two weeks after the child, she was back in training, and afterward qualified for the tournament. As a mother and a woman, that is a big accomplishment. With regard to public contribution, supporters should go to http://wesupportnia.blogspot.com/ and http://www.myspace.com/wesupportnia. With the MySpace website, we have a fund to assist Nia, and with the BlogSpot website, we urge readers to comment; but most importantly, we need supporters to write to their Congress people and press for a Judicial Report on Nia's story.
Mr. Duhart: The question should also be posed to the USOC (United States Olympic Committee), about their refusal to air this fight on public airwaves. This was a history-making event, and they haven't shown it on TV yet. They air the Olympic trial for other sports, but they have refused to air this fight, and I think that's very important.
Nia Abdallah and her family can be contacted at:
Watch the infamous fight, and make your decision:
Nia Abdallah vs Diana Lopez - Olympic Qualifying Match
This interview was conducted by Tolu Olorunda, Staff Writer for YourBlackWorld.com