Despite making a living out of fighting and kicking his opponents, Lutalo Muhammad has always possessed a way with words.
Think back ten months to that painful post-fight interview in Rio, where the Brit still found a way to articulate his feelings to the world despite agonisingly missing out on a gold medal by a single second.
In the months that have passed since, the 26-year-old self-confessed bookworm has largely let his words do the talking too, taking time away from the sport to not only recharge mentally and physically, but also channel his Olympic heartbreak into a positive experience that can be passed onto others.
But taekwondo was, and continues to be, his main passion and on the eve of the World Championships getting underway in Muju, South Korea, Muhammad is back and as determined as ever.
“The World Championships are a bit of a thorn in my rear, a persistent pestilence for me!” explained the Walthamstow-born fighter in his usual honest style.
“I’ve won medals at all the other Championships but I’ve not had as much luck, whether that be through injuries or whatever, at World Championships.
“You never go into a fight 100 per cent, no athlete is ever that. But I am feeling very confident this time around.
“From the Games until February, I had a break but I was still doing what was necessary to keep fit, it was more a mental rest.
“I’ve worked on my game plan with my coach. I’m looking good and feeling good.”
A European champion and Olympic bronze medallist in 2012, Muhammad has every reason to be frustrated when it comes to his World Championship record.
Injuries blighted his progress post London 2012, only making his competitive return two months before the 2013 Worlds in Mexico.
He would eventually lose in the last 16 before later finishing the year as the middleweight Grand Prix champion.
It was a similar story for the next Worlds two years later – missing the action in Russia after picking up a knee injury in one of the team’s final training sessions before bouncing back by taking bronze in the welterweight category at June’s inaugural European Games in Baku.
With 2017 Worlds about to begin, this year could finally be Muhammad’s – and this time he will be fighting at middleweight (-87kg), a heavier weight than the welterweight category in which he won Olympic silver and bronze.
“It’s definitely a category I’m really looking to lay down a marker in,” said Muhammad, who won middleweight European gold and bronze in 2012 and 2014 respectively.
“Last time I fought at it was in 2014 I think so it’s been a little while but I’m happy to be back.
“Middleweight, welterweight – one of my dreams would be to dominate both categories. If they ever change the rules for the Olympics, I would like to do both.
“After the Worlds I will be back to welterweight for the Grand Prix with the final in the Ivory Coast in December.”
Despite all that he has already achieved, it is clear that Muhammad is not short of big plans for the future.
Those also extend to the Olympic stage with the Brit committed to the at least another cycle to try and complete the medal set.
“It did cross my mind to retire after the Olympics. An Olympic cycle is a long time,” he admitted.
“It’s a very demanding sport and I had to weigh things up. I had a bronze and a silver medal and I’m extremely proud of that achievement.
“From a personal ego point of view, it’s something not many people have done.
“But a gold medal has been my aim since I was a young kid and I wouldn’t be doing myself, my dad, my mum, brother justice if I didn’t go for it.
“I’ve been in the position of competing for an Olympic gold medal and I have an overriding desire for it again.
“I still haven’t reached my prime yet, I could have another two Games in me at my prime. At the moment I’m feeling full of confidence and in good shape.”
A gold at the 2017 World Championships would certainly back up those words.
Hassan Haider (-54kg)
Max Cater (-58kg)
Bradly Sinden (-63kg)
Peter Longobardi-Radford (-68kg)
Christian McNeish (-74kg)
Damon Sansum (-80kg)
Lutalo Muhammad (-87kg)
Mahama Cho (+87kg)
Courtney Eardley (-49kg)
Jade Jones (-57kg)
Rachelle Booth (-62kg)
Lauren Williams (-67kg)
Jade Slavin (-73kg)
Bianca Walkden (+73kg)
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