Team GB Exclusive: Bookworm Muhammad's story just starting
Exclusive

Team GB Exclusive: Bookworm Muhammad's story just starting

08 May 2015 / 13:06

At 23 years old and with European and Commonwealth Championship titles – not to mention an Olympic bronze medal – in the bank, Lutalo Muhammad has already provided plenty to write home about.

A self-confessed bookworm and fan of J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, the taekwondo star lived out a notable coming of age moment when he climbed the medal rostrum for the -80kg category in front of the home fans at London 2012.

Yet there is plenty of mileage left to run in this story yet – the latest chapter of which could be written at next week’s World Championships in Russia.

And for Muhammad, who was introduced to the sport aged just three by his father and taekwondo coach Wayne before joining the GB Academy in 2011, the parallels between literature and sport are not lost on him.

“I always liked those kind of stories where they start somewhere, they develop and they end up somewhere else, maybe because it translates to sport and training,” said Muhammad, who admits he inherited his love of books from mother Marcia.

“London was one of my coming of age moments. Obviously I had my first major medal that year at the Europeans and then going to the Olympics and that was just one year on from joining the Academy.

“It’s exciting, I’ve come this far and I’ve won many major medals already and I’m 23 years old.

“I believe if I’m blessed to have maybe another ten years in this sport, the best is definitely yet to come.”

He will certainly be hoping that best is on display next week in Chelyabinsk for the World Taekwondo Championships, which get underway on May 12.

Despite his impressive CV, a medal at World Championship level is the one honour still missing from the Brit’s collection.

But Muhammad, who has already won the US Open and the European Clubs' Championship this year, is optimistic about his chances of success in Russia, providing he can get both the physical and mental approach spot on.

“I’ve had a medal at the Olympics, I’ve won Grand Prixs so I feel like I’m ready to win this World Championships,” he added.

“I’ve fought many of the people who will be there and beaten most of them. It’s all about putting things together and making sure it all translates on the day.

“But what gives you a massive edge is having the mental edge. There are so many opportunities and room for development there because as far as I’m concerned the mind is limitless. A big philosophy in taekwondo is about building your character.

“One of the classic stories my dad would always tell me when I was a little boy was what’s the difference between the hero and the coward when they are going in to fight? 

“He said they are both the same, the hero and coward are both scared before their fight but the difference is the hero faces his fears and the cowards runs away from his fears.

“I think you can only be so good physically and technically but having the mental edge is, I think, the most important edge and I think that’s something that is going to help me in this year’s World Championships.”

With the World Championships also offering the opportunity of gaining valuable qualification points for next year’s Olympics, thoughts of Rio will undoubtedly never be far from the forefront of Muhammad’s mind.

And confident his most successful years are still to come, don’t bet against him upgrading on his London bronze in Brazil.

“London is always going to be such a strong memory in my mind and it’s definitely a positive one,” he added.

“It’s one that gives me that hunger to keep going and go and hopefully get that gold medal next year.

“I’m almost still at the beginning. I feel like there is so much more I can do physically, mentally as well as technically.

“I’ve never been to Rio, Brazil, South America. It’s going to tick a few boxes. The plan is gold medal and then carnival time.”

World Taekwondo Grand Prix – featuring the very best Olympic and World Champions from across the globe – is coming to Manchester on 16-18 October. Experience the excitement, drama and electrifying atmosphere of this explosive Olympic sport with tickets on sale 19 May at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/wtgp

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