Lutalo Muhammad, not obsessed with Aaron Cook: "The GP will be as tough as the Olympics"
Lutalo Muhammad is gearing up for the toughest competition of his career at the inaugural WTF World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester this weekend.
And the London 2012 bronze medallist refuses to be side tracked by external hype of a potential meeting with former GB Academy team mate, Aaron Cook, in Saturday’s explosive -80kg weight division.
“I realise it would be a significant fight because of the history involved,”
agrees the reigning -87kg European champion. “But-if it happens-it is really just another fight.
“There are 30 other guys who I need to worry about: Olympic and World champions keen to show why they won those titles.
“So, Aaron really isn’t my big concern even if other people want to focus on it.”
Certainly, Muhammad, one of 13 GB stars fighting over three days at the historic Grand Prix (December 13-15), will need to bring his A game to the Manchester Central taekwondo party.
Argentina’s Olympic champion, Sebastian Crismanich, is among his opponents, so too 2011 World gold medallist and current world number one, Ramin Azizov from Azerbaijan plus Germany’s 2013 World champion, Tahir Gulec. Just for good measure, Spaniard Nicolas Garcia Hemme defeated Muhammad in London last summer before going on to complete his collection of Olympic, World and European silver medals.
“The -80kg division is one of the hallmark categories in taekwondo right now and one of the more competitive categories,” agrees the 22-year-old Londoner.
“With so many top players coming to Manchester it really will be as tough as the Olympics. Maybe at the Worlds of Europeans, if you get one of the ‘quote unquote’ smaller countries you can perhaps get an easier first round match.
“But there will be no easy opponents on Saturday. However, my mind set has always been ‘if you intend to win a tournament, you have to beat everyone at some point anyway.’
“Whoever I draw first it doesn’t bother me. I intend going all the way to the final to win gold regardless.”
Muhammad showed he can handle pressure at last summer’s Olympics, recovering from a quarter-final defeat to Garcia Hemme to take bronze with a brilliant
9-3 destruction of highly rated Arman Yeremyan from Armenia. And with another home crowd to please he’s up for the challenge.
“I have marked my day on the calendar as ‘show time,’ laughed the cool and confident British National champion.”I know what I am prepared to do.
“We have had our disappointments this year, especially at the World Championship in Mexico. But for me that was a blip and I honestly believe we are in great form and ready to go as a group to show the people of Britain what we can do.”
The World Grand Prix is the first event of its kind ever staged and competitors are battling for Rio 2016 qualification points as well as podium places. Britain’s squad includes -57kg Olympic champion Jade Jones, Beijing Olympian and -63kg European champion Michael Harvey, London 2012 Olympian Martin Stamper and Jordan Gayle, one of three Mancunians fighting on home territory, and a winner over Stamper on his way to this season’s -68kg Serbian Open title.
Source: GB Taekwondo