Muhammad gunning to end bumpy road to Rio on a high

Since his bronze medal in London four years ago it has not all been plain sailing for Lutalo Muhammad, but the man himself remains confident of topping the podium in Rio.

Injuries have hindered the 25-year-old but he booked his plane ticket to Brazil at the Taekwondo World Grand Prix in December of last year.

First up in the -80kg category for Muhammad is a clash with Hayder Shkara from Australia on Friday in the round of 16 with a potential final that same evening.

And after sealing bronze in London, and that same colour medal at the European Games in Baku last year, Muhammad is incredibly motivated to set the record straight in Rio.

“On the podium in London, I heard another man’s anthem and saw a grown man break down in tears,” he said.

“I’d have to wait four years to have that same feeling. Now I’m here, I’m going for one thing. I will be Olympic champion.”

Muhammad is trained by his father and has been a key figure in the GB squad since the build-up to London.

That preparation for a home Games was marred by the controversy surrounding Aaron Cook’s non-selection despite being the world No.1 at the time.

Cook is now at Rio – competing under the flag of Moldova – and the duo are on opposite sides of the draw.

A grudge gold-medal match could unfold if everything goes to plan and Muhammad - who beat his rival at the World Grand Prix last year - insists he welcomes that challenge.

“We are not friends," Muhammad said of his relationship with Cook.

"There's always fireworks when we fight, it's always exciting, it's the fight the crowd wants to see.

"It's probably the biggest rivalry in taekwondo. I embrace it. Cook is a world-class athlete, he's always going to be dangerous. Do I think I'm better than him? Absolutely.

"The place to prove that is in the ring. I've got four fights to win an Olympic gold medal. If Cook is one of those fights, I welcome it."

And while Muhammad’s form over the last four-year cycle has been inconsistent, performance director of GB taekwondo Gary Hall knows that a Muhammad on form is nigh on unstoppable.

“Lutalo hasn't had a great run with injuries but he is a big game player,” he said.

“He has really been in good shape over the last few months. He has got a really tough draw but whoever comes through his quarter will be in a great position to win gold. But on his day if Lutalo gets it right he will beat anyone.”

Sportsbeat 2016