Lynnette Love, 1988 Olympic gold medalist and 1992 Olympic bronze medalist, watched the recent Summer Olympic Games with warm thoughts, reflecting on her debut as one of the first female martial artists to compete on the U.S. Taekwondo team in the 1988 Summer Olympic Games hosted in Seoul, Korea.
“It took me right back to Seoul, as do all the Olympic Games,” said Master Love, a sixth-degree black belt. “The memories and feelings I have of being an Olympian were wonderful times that I will never forget. However, the Games have changed a lot since I competed in the women's heavyweight division,” said Love.
“When I fought, one point was all you got for any shot to any part of the body. Now, competitors receive three points for a shot to the head,” said Love. “I think it's just change, and in one way it's great and it's also different. But anything that promotes the sport of martial arts, including MMA (Mixed Martial Arts), is good.”
Having cemented her place in Olympic history and the 1989 Guinness Book of World Records, the 6'3" Love now teaches young Olympic hopefuls at her taekwondo academy inside Joint Base Andrews' Youth Center.
“I have students that have competed and won international medals. I would love to see one of my students become an Olympian,” said Love, who has instilled pride and discipline in her students at the Youth Center since 1994.
Though Love now focuses on helping younger athletes, her memories of Olympic greatness have moved beyond her past. In 2008, Love was approached by screenwriter and actress Cherrelle Elan, who wanted to tell Love's story on the silver screen.
“This was unexpected,” said Love with humility. “I'm very appreciative. I think it's another great way to promote martial arts, and hopefully this movie will put taekwondo out there even more. I also hope it helps young girls see the potential of sports and teaches all of my students about the experience of team training, setting goals and accomplishments.”
A native Washingtonian and Howard University theater graduate, Elan is excited to portray Love in the movie “Seoul, U.S.A.,” on the lives and Olympic achievements of Love and Arlene Limas, a 1988 welterweight gold medalist.
“As the writer of the screenplay, survivor of growing up in the inner city of D.C. and taekwondo practitioner myself, I am proof positive images have an impact,” said Elan.
The movie documents Love and Limas' personal hardships competing in a male-dominated martial art, and their triumphant victory during the 1988 Summer Olympic Games. That year, the women's taekwondo team won 7 medals, with Love and Limas each winning gold medals in their weight class under coach Grand Master Sang Lee.
“Having interviewed Lynnette and Arlene, their individual triumphs have inspired me to overcome my own insecurities. Bringing their stories to the world by way of film will help many young women like me take steps to living their best selves,” said Elan.
Elan also realized certain parallels between her adolescence in D.C. and Love's upbringing in Detroit.
“While growing up, Lynnette and I both had single moms. We were both into modeling and we definitely have martial arts in common,” said Elan, a Miss Teen DC USA title winner and third-degree black belt in taekwondo. “That's were our similarities end, though. She's very tall -- 6' 3" to be exact. I'm only 5' 8”," said Elan. “Also personality-wise, Lynnette doesn't take things too seriously like I do. She has a better sense of humor and is much more laid back. So, I'll have my work cut out for me.”
Elan's initial interest to portray Love was fueled by Romell Foster-Owens, producer and director of Jowharah Films. “Ms. Foster-Owens has been very instrumental in getting the movie project in pre-development with the presentation short. She thought it would be ideal for me to play Lynnette,” said Elan, who originally wrote the script with the intention of playing as a supporting character.
However, Elan had trouble finding an actress that met Love's height and martial arts experience to play the lead. “Ms. Foster-Owens suggested that I play the role and get actors and actresses shorter than I to play the other characters.”
Elan's athleticism was also challenged in telling Love's story because Love was also a basketball phenom in college.
“I've never played basketball, so I started taking lessons,” said Elan.
Love was team captain, played center, and was an All-City and All-State athlete before her basketball career was cut short due to knee injuries. “I was playing on a scholarship, but my knees couldn't take it. So, I wanted to stay in shape and found taekwondo,” Love said.
In researching Love's character further, Elan studied the Korean language including Hangul, the native Korean alphabet.
“I know I have a lot of work to do to get prepared... but I have the old taekwondo indomitable spirit,” said Elan.
Although the movie is still in the pre-production stage, Love gave her opinion recently after reviewing the film's presentation short.
“I like the presentation shorts a lot. I especially like the one that they chose to best,” said Love. “It seems to capture who I was and how focused I was then.”
Intrigued by the original script, Foster-Owens expressed why she became interested in the presentation film project.
“I got interested in this project after first meeting with Cherrelle and reading her screenplay,” said Foster-Owens, an award-winning producer/director. “My initial thought about Lynnette's story was, 'Here is an individual who went to a country to compete in an art form where it originated… and won a gold medal.' I thought she must be phenomenal!”
Even though Foster-Owens has not met Love, she talked with her on the phone for three hours while visiting the D.C. area last year.
“I was impressed by her humbleness, never once mentioning any of her accomplishments. She's a really fascinating person and I think that young people need to hear positive stories about role models like Lynnette. What is so good about her story is that she achieved her goal in the Olympics and now she is giving back to the children in her community.”
When asked how she felt about being immortalized in film, Love stated, “I want to continue to teach others martial arts. I know if it gives them half of what it gave me, it can change their lives. I'm also grateful to have traveled the world and had the opportunities to compete for 14 years and make a living doing what I love.”