Muhammad Qualifies Rio Spot For Great Britain After Grand Prix Triumph
Lutalo Muhammad spoke of his “double bonus” after beating former Great Britain team mate, Aaron Cook, to win the WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix final series in Mexico City.
The London 2012 bronze medallist must wait until next year to discover if he will be selected for the Rio Games.
But a 7-3 win against his Moldovan rival gave him victory in the -80kg division and qualified an Olympic place in the weight category for Team GB.
Muhammad’s final win proved the most straight forward of his three successes on a dramatic first day of Grand Prix action.
The Walthamstow Warrior edged his quarter and semi-finals against Germany’s Tahir Guelec and Albert Gaun of Russia on golden point. Indeed, his win over 2013 world champion Guelec was only decided by countback touches on body armour as the fighters couldn’t be separated by extra time.
“I couldn’t ask for more,” enthused the 24-year-old Manchester based athlete. “It was an amazing day and being able to qualify the Olympic spot was a double bonus
“Before the final I was very excited because I had been in a similar situation in Manchester and lost. So, I was determined to make sure I got it right this time.
“I worked on a game plan with my coach Steve Jennings which I followed and executed perfectly.”
Dorchester born Cook struck first in a keenly anticipated final but Muhammad hit back quickly with a three-pointer. He edged 5-1 in front after two rounds and was able to control the last three minutes to compensate for his loss to Tunisia’s Oueslati Oussama at the World Grand Prix final in Manchester back in October.
Muhammad, who spoke of the “mutual respect” between him and his ex GB Academy team mate, also collected a $6,000 first prize.
“I feel like I have improved tremendously since London 2012,” said the new Grand Prix champion. “I was young and fresh faced with a lot of raw talent but perhaps still a bit rough round the edges.
“Now, I feel like I have cleaned up a lot of those areas and am a lot stronger mentally from those experiences I have been through. I feel I am in a much better place.
“But now I am looking forward to a period where I can rest up, let my injuries heal and come back even better in 2016 because it is all about that Olympic gold.”
Iran’s Masoud Hajizavareh, who knocked out GB’s world Championship -80kg silver medallist, Damon Sansum in the last eight, beat Russian Gaun to take bronze.