CAN MUHAMMAD’S OLYMPIC DREAM BECOME REALITY?
Lutalo Muhammad has harboured dreams of becoming an Olympic champion ever since he was a toddler.
Four years ago the ‘Walthamstow Warrior’ showed commendable spirit and resolve to claim a -80kg bronze medal at London 2012.
To do so he ignored a maelstrom of controversy over his selection at the expense of former GB team mate, Aaron Cook.
Unassuming and laid back, Muhammad justified his call-up by coming through a repechage to beat Arman Yeremyan of Armenian and take his place on the podium.
Now, he wants to go two rungs higher and add to Team GB’s growing gold medal haul at London 2012.
Muhammad starts his campaign on Friday against Australian Haydar Shkara as the reigning World Taekwondo Federation World Grand Prix champion. Since his exciting Grand Prix final win over Cook in Mexico, the 2012 European champion has competed sparingly.
And that has only made his more hungry to succeed when he enters the competition arena at Carioca 3.
“Winning an Olympic gold medal has been my dream ever since I was a little boy,” says Muhmmad who could face America’s two-time Olympic and six-time World champion. Steve Lopez in the last 16. “That has always kept me driven.
“I have got four fights to win an Olympic gold medal. And I am prepared to beat anyone.
“The last 12 months I have been on a bit of a roller coaster with injuries. But I am back in top shape and I am in a very good position.
“It was terrific for me getting a medal in my home town in front of my own fans,” adds Muhammad, one of four Team GB athletes in action in Rio. “But winning the gold has spurred me on even more
“It has been easier this time without the outside pressures though it has still been a lot of hard work.”
However, Muhammad isn’t getting ahead of himself and is only too aware of a formidable field that has gathered in Brazil. World number one, Mahdi Khodabakhshi, the reigning world champion, is also in the same half of the draw. So too is 2014 European champion, Albert Gaun of Russia.
Shkara, Muhammad’s opening opponent reached Rio by beating 2012 Olympian Vaughn Scott in the Oceania Olympic qualification tournament.
“I am ready for anything that comes my way,” says ever confidant Muhammad. “I can’t wait to get started.”