Olympic taekwondo selection been "tough situation" for both athletes says Muhammad
Sunday, 10 June 2012
June 10 - Lutalo Muhammad, controversially chosen for the British taekwondo team at the London 2012 Olympics ahead of the world number one Aaron Cook, has spoken for the first time about his "ordeal" over the decision, adding that it has been a "tough situation" for both athletes.
But the 21-year-old from Walthamstow, who is European champion at the -87kg category, insists he is comfortable at the -80kg category in which Cook is top ranked and European champion.
Lutalo, whose selection was belatedy ratified by the British Olympic Association (BOA) last week even though they criticised the process and the "lack of transparency" involved, told GB Taekwondo's website: "I feel really good at this weight and only stepped up to -87kg again for the Euros.
"I've fought a number of times this year at -80kg and won medals.
"So, if it's a problem for some people, it's not a problem for me."
He added: "It has been an ordeal and it has been difficult at times.
"And I know that there are some formalities to tie up with the BOA but I am just pleased the Selection Panel has such confidence in me.
"Throughout all the headlines my focus was always on my training.
"I have trained ever since the announcement that I was going to the Olympics.
"To be honest it hasn't been too hard because the team at the Academy has been right behind me.
"There's a fantastic spirit and it's helped me to see Jade [Jones], Martin [Stamper] and Sarah [Stevenson] cracking on with their training
"It's helped me to forget about everything that has been going on."
Muhammad, whose 21st birthday celebrations on June 3 were put on hold, said: "I knew the Europeans was the last big chance for me before the Olympics.
"But my main aim was just to become European champion and let everything else take care of itself.
"So, I was ecstatic when I found out that the selectors had that much confidence in me."
However, Muhammad readily acknowledged the painful nature of the decision for the 21-year-old from Dorchester whose family moved up to Manchester to help further his career and who missed out on a medal at the 2008 Beijing Games by one place.
"When I joined the Academy Aaron had already left so I haven't had that much contact with him," he explained.
"But when we have met face-to-face we have always been very courteous and very civil.
"I have no problems with Aaron and I still don't.
"We are both just athletes trying to perform to the best of our ability.
"It's been tough for everyone involved but I can only concentrate on what I can do.
"It's been a tough situation for both of us. And I wish Aaron all the best for the future.
"As I said, I have no problems with Aaron."
Regarding comments that have been made about his relative inexperience and the extra pressure on his shoulders caused by his Olympic selection, Muhammad responded: "When I get to London all I can do is perform to the best of my ability.
"Any outside pressure or whatever other people will say, I won't let it affect me.
"My desire and will to win is very strong.
"I will give it my all.
"I am not really concerned about what anyone else might say.
"I don't feel under any extra pressure other than that I put on myself."
June 2012: World number one will miss London 2012 after BOA ratify British Taekwondo decision not to pick him
June 2012: Exclusive - "I've no regrets" says BOA chief as heat grows hotter over Cook
June 2012: World Taekwondo Federation concerned by "lack of transparency" over Cook omission
June 2012: Cook snubbed again as British Taekwondo stand by decision to pick rival
June 2012: Alan Hubbard - What we have now is unseemly bickering over selection processes that bedevils Team GB at the worst possible time