What do you do after you win a gold medal at the Olympics?
You come back four years later and try to do it again. That's exactly what taekwondo superstar Steven Lopez did when he captured gold at the 2000 Olympic games in Sydney, Australia, and then again in 2004 in Athens, Greece.
Could the five-time world champion three-peat in Beijing, China?
It wasn't meant to be. But Lopez, who was forced to settle for bronze in 2008 in the wake of a controversial officiating call, can still secure the golden hat trick when he takes center stage this year in London, England, for his fourth straight appearance as a member of Team USA.
And he hasn't ruled out a return in 2016.
Lopez has continued to set the high water mark for combat sports in the Olympic games. His standard of excellence, documented in the above "My Journey" video, should be considered the foundation for which the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) can eventually build its frame upon.
While no one from Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC), or any other global fight promotion for that matter, can compete on the world stage (yet), there was a time in the not-too-distant past when professional basketball players were also excluded.
It could just be a matter of time.
For now, fight fans can still get in on this year's festivities across the pond thanks to the offshoots of MMA that are currently included, like wrestling, judo and of course, taekwondo, which kicks off in just over a week (Aug. 8, 2012).
See the complete schedule here.
One of the reasons I've been following Steven's career, both as a fight fan and former taekwondo student, is because he doesn't rest on his laurels. I like that. Instead of hanging his medals over the fireplace and protecting his legacy, he's still out there, in the trenches, proving he can hang with the best in the world, year in and year out.
As Lopez says (at the 2:41 mark):
"Gotta remember: Winning is never automatic, for anyone. Otherwise, what would there be to fight for?"
For more on the "My Journey" video campaign, which has been sponsored by AT&T and highlights the paths of select 2012 Olympic athletes, including Jordyn Wieber (gymnastics) and Ryan Lochte (swimming), click here.