Walthamstow's Lutalo Muhammad reflects on London Olympic bronze medal achievement
7:00am Saturday 11th August 2012 in London Olympics 2012 - Latest News
Lutalo Muhammad maintains he was never out to prove a point after batting to secure Britain's first male Olympic taekwondo medal with bronze in the under-80kgs at ExCeL last night.
The 21-year-old was a controversial selection for the Team GB squad ahead of world number one Aaron Cook, but could only make the last eight before he was beaten by eventual finalist Nicolas Garcia Hemme, which handed him a chance of redemption through the repechage.
Muhammad - raised just a few miles away in Walthamstow and trained by his dad from an early age - seized his opportunity to beat Iran's Yousef Karami and then blasted past Arman Yeremyan of Armenia with a succession of trademark head kicks to land bronze, which came 24 hours after gold for Wales teenager Jade Jones in the women's under-57kgs.
Muhammad found himself the centre of a media storm earlier this summer, and even attracted hate mail.
However, he said: "Everything which had gone on was never on my mind, or a fuel for me to do well. I just wanted to win a gold medal for Team GB.
"The crowd was tremendous and the Team GB supporters made it fantastic - I am not sure I would have been able to win bronze were it not for them."
He continued: "We don't normally get a second chance, and there was no way I was going to lose this opportunity.
"My coaches told me 'this bronze is now your gold medal, so you have to treat it as a final and go for it.' That got me in the right state mentally.
"Bronze is not the colour I wanted, but it was hard earned, so I am very grateful to have this reward and hopefully next time, I can go two further to get that Olympic gold medal".
GB Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall felt last night's results justified the selection of Muhammad.
"We feel so. We have a bunch of experts up there who know the job," he said.
"It got questioned and I am sure people have varying opinions, but at the end of the day, we selected the guy and he has gone out and delivered. It was a fantastic performance by the lad."
Muhammad dedicated his Olympic bronze medal to father Wayne and the support of Team GB.
"My dad was in the crowd, and I am pretty sure I heard my mum screaming her head off," he said.
"My dad has taught me since I was three. All those times I wanted to go out, when I was 16 or 17, but he told me 'no, go to the gym'.
"I resented it a bit then, but I am grateful now, so thanks dad."