News and Views
London 2012: Lutalo Muhammad says he can win Olympic gold
Lutalo Muhammad says he “can’t wait” to prove GB Taekwondo was right to pick him ahead of Aaron Cook at London 2012.
The 21-year-old received hate mail following his nomination for the Olympic squad, but insists he has the potential to win gold this summer.
“A lot of people didn’t appreciate that I had a good European Championships,” the -87kg champion told BBC Sport.
“My focus right now is not Aaron Cook, it’s a gold medal in London”
Lutalo Muhammad -87kg European champion
“If I perform to the best of my ability I have a very good chance of getting that gold medal for Team GB in London.”
Muhammad admits he has endured a “tough ordeal” over the last couple of weeks while the Cook camp appealed against the fighter’s Olympic omission.
“There were times where I admit I wasn’t sure what was going on, or what was going to happen,” reflected the fighter.
“All I’ve tried to do is perform to the best of my ability, because when people start sending you hate mail and calling you names and what not, I think it was quite childish.
“A lot of the stuff that I received I don’t want to even repeat, it was quite hurtful.
“Fortunately I had great support from the team and Sarah [Stevenson], Jade [Jones] and Martin [Stamper] really helped me just focus on my training and kind of block everything else out.”
The London-born fighter was nominated by a GB Taekwondo Olympic selection panel three times in total, but had to wait for ratification after first the British Olympic Association (BOA) and then the sport’s international governing body (World Taekwondo Federation) queried their choice.
Rival Cook won -80kg European gold in April
“I came into the academy maybe nine months ago, so by then he’d already left because he felt he could do it better alone, so I never really got the opportunity to know him,” said Muhammad.
“When we have met at competitions it’s always been very civil, very courteous and very business-like, so I don’t have any problems with Cook and I still don’t even after all of this ordeal.
“Unfortunately with the nature of sport there are always going to be winners and losers so I wish him all the best for his future, but my focus right now is not Aaron Cook, it’s a gold medal in London.”
There is the possibility that Cook could take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport, but his chances of successfully overturning the ruling of the BOA would appear slim.
Muhammad feels the situation is now resolved and is looking forward to competing in his home city in less than two months’ time.
“I’ve wanted to go to the Olympics since a very young age, it’s almost been my life ambition so that alone is incredible,” the fighter said.
“The fact that the Olympics is in England where I was raised is fantastic, the fact that it’s in London where I was born and where I’ve lived most of my life is incredible.”