Olympics-Taekwondo-Zolotic hopes gold win will give taekwondo a lift in US

Taekwondo - Women's Featherweight 49-57kg - Medal Ceremony

By Chang-Ran Kim

CHIBA, Japan (Reuters) - U.S. gold medallist for women's taekwondo Anastasija Zolotic said on Sunday she hoped her historic win would give taekwondo a boost in her home country, where other combat sports have had a bigger following than the Korean martial art form.

In a surprise result, the 18-year-old won the Unites States' first gold medal women since taekwondo became a full-medal Olympic sport in 2000.

Asked whether there was room for another combat sport in a country with a greater affection for boxing and mixed martial arts, Zolotic said: "There better be. I work my butt off for it, and I hope taekwondo (becomes) as popular as it can be in the U.S.

"Hopefully in 2024 if I make it over there and win another gold medal and just keep grinding to LA, by then taekwondo will be all over the map," she said, referring to the next Summer Games in Paris in three years and Los Angeles in 2028.

While taekwondo has 80 million practitioners around the world, it has struggled to gain traction in the United States, while past allegations of sexual misconduct against women have also hurt its reputation.

"Hopefully (my win) will give it a better image than it has and bring it back up to where USA taekwondo deserves to be - one of the best sports that you can watch," she said.

(Reporting by Chang-Ran Kim; Editing by Hugh Lawson)