U.S. taekwando medalist Diana Lopez is a fierce competitor. But if she enters a match with any trepidation, Lopez uses her mom's advice to battle through her fears; she thinks of her opponent as a snake that she needs to destroy. Does it work? We say yes. Lopez won a bronze medal at the 2008 Beijing Games and will kick it up in the ring this summer at the 2012 London Games.
The opponent as snake metaphor stems from Lopez's mom deep fear of the slithery reptile. Growing up, she couldn't even watch television if a snake were on the screen. Says Ondina Lopez: "One time my son was in the garage and I saw a snake and started to scream. I had to face that snake -- so my son would see I could do it, that I could leave my fears behind." And that story has become a family mantra, a reminder that to compete and fight, you have to face your fears head on.
"That's what she always tells us, 'You know what, Diana? I was scared of that snake. Just pretend your opponent is that snake, and just go in there and destroy her," says Diana Lopez.
Lopez, 28, is the youngest child -- and the only daughter -- in her family. Her mom, Ondina, adored the idea of finally having a little girl in the house. Lopez recalls her mom dressing her "like a doll" -- only Lopez wanted to study taekwondo with her three older brothers. "I wanted her to be different. But, no, she wanted to do what her brothers were doing," says Ondina Lopez. "This was the sport that she wanted, so I treated her just like her brothers."
Lopez's brothers, Steven, Mark and Jean, are all taekwondo masters. Oldest brother Jean trains Diana and her other brothers, Steven and Mark. At the 2008 Beijing Games, the three siblings competed and medaled -- a first in the history of the Olympic Games. The Lopez kids have dubbed themselves "First Family of Taekwondo," and run a martial arts academy in their hometown of Houston, with a second in Sugar Land.
Right now, all sights are on London.
"Going to the London 2012 Olympics Games, I am looking to come home with the gold medal," says Lopez. "[The] Bronze medal is nice, but I want a gold medal around my neck."
For Ondina Lopez, it's still nearly impossible to watch her children compete. "I try to stay strong," she says. "It makes me anxious, nervous, I feel like I'm going to faint. I try to be strong, even if on the inside I am dying." She prefers to stay home instead of attending any events. That will change this summer when she'll be on hand to see Diana, and son Steven, in London. And she'll have to turn to use her own advice.
Says Ondina Lopez: "In the London 2012 London Games, Diana wants me to go. When I am afraid, I just think of that day in the garage -- so I try to go after the snake."
The Procter & Gamble video series, "Raising an Olympian," will run through the London Games and profiles athletes, their dedicated efforts to make it to Olympic games, and the mothers who had tremendous impacts on their lives. Check out Team Mom on Yahoo! Shine all summer for additional "Raising an Olympian" segments.
Also on Shine:
Raising an Olympaian: Kortney Clemons
Raising an Olympian: Ryan Lochte
Raising an Olympian: Kerri Walsh-Jennings
Raising an Olympian: Shawn Johnson