Paige McPherson sat in her apartment on Thursday night, and watched teammate Terrence Jennings defy the odds to win a bronze medal.
“I was yelling so loud,” McPherson said, with a laugh.
Jennings lost in the first round of his competition, but was brought back via the repechage round and made the most of the opportunity by winning the bronze medal in the men’s -68kg taekwondo competition.
On Friday night, McPherson did it herself.
The 21-year-old was brought back into the competition via the repechage round, and didn’t lose from there. McPherson defeated Franca Anic of Slovenia, 8-3, to win the bronze medal in the women’s -67kg competition at the ExCeL Center.
The match was tied 3-3 after the first period, before McPherson took control.
Before she was brought back into competition, Jennings gave McPherson a piece of advice. He told her to, “shake it off and go for the bronze.”
“He did it,” McPherson said. “He redirected himself and redirected his focus.”
McPherson, whose teammates gave her the nickname “McFierce” about three or four years ago, did just that.
McPherson started the completed off with a stunning first-round upset, by defeating hometown favorite Sarah Stevenson of Great Britain, 5-1. Stevenson is a two-time world champion and 2008 Olympic bronze medalist. McPherson, meanwhile, was competing in her first-ever Olympic match.
McPherson lost to the world’s No. 2-ranked fighter, Turkey’s Nut Tatar, 6-1, in the quarterfinal round. However she was brought back into the competition when Tatar made the gold medal match.
“I’m thankful for this moment, I never knew it would happen,” McPherson said. “It’s just like I’ve won gold.”
When the judge announced McPherson as the winner, she jumped up and down and looked into the crowd for her family.
“As soon as I won, I knew it wasn’t myself that got here,” McPherson said. “It was my parents, my supporters, my coach and my teammates that pushed me this far and I did it for them, not for myself.”
She then wrapped herself in the American flag and did a mini victory lap around the arena.
“I always pictured that moment,” McPherson said.
Meanwhile Steven Lopez lost his opening match in the men’s -80kg division to top seed Ramin Azizov of Azerbaijan, 3-2, and was not brought back into the repechage round since Azizov failed to advance to the finals.