Updated: Friday, 6th December 2019 @ 8:37pm

Lutalo Muhammad looks to 'rubber stamp' Rio 2016 place at World Taekwondo Champs

Lutalo Muhammad looks to 'rubber stamp' Rio 2016 place at World Taekwondo Champs

| By Ross Kelsall

A World Taekwondo Championships medal is the only thing missing from Lutalo Muhammad’s CV, and the Manchester-based ace is adamant the time is now right to rectify that.

Muhammad has been selected as Great Britain’s male representative in the -87kg category for the upcoming World Championships in Chelyabinsk, Russia, which start on May 12.

The 23-year-old won a bronze medal at the London 2012 Olympics, gold at the European Championships in the same year and gold at last year’s Commonwealth Championships, leaving the Worlds as the only major medal missing from his haul.

But having already won the US Open and finished second at the Turkish Open this season, he looks primed to change that in Russia.

And with a stack of qualification points for next year’s Olympics in Rio also up for grabs, the need for success is doubly crucial.

“This year is critically important because the Olympics are next year,” explained Muhammad.

“So the selectors are going to base their Olympic selection on who’s really had the best year this year.

“I’m doing very well at the moment so I just need to keep it going. And the World Championships will really be the rubber stamp which can help assure me a place next year.

“I’ve had a great season so far, I’ve had success at the US Open and in Turkey so I’m riding a really positive wave right now.

“I’m feeling really good going into these World Championships, this is the only major event in which I haven’t medalled so I’m very hungry to go over there and get that gold.

“I’m in it to win it and I feel like I have a very good chance of doing that.”

In Chelyabinsk, Muhammad could well come up against current world No.1 Jasur Baykuziyev of Uzbekistan or reigning world champion Rafael Castillo of Cuba.

But the powerhouse, who took up taekwondo aged three, believes his recent focus on the psychological aspect of the sport will pay dividends no matter who he faces.

“I feel good and I think it’s very important to be mentally sound going into major tournaments,” added Muhammad.

“I think you can only be so good physically and technically but having the mental edge is, I think, the most important edge.

“I’m probably giving away some of my secrets here! But this has been my main focus and what I think is going to give me the edge going into this year’s World Championships.

“The world number one is from Uzbekistan at the moment and the reigning world champion is from Cuba so they are my main competition.

“If you see them both, one is about 6ft 5in and one is about 5ft 10in so they couldn’t be more different in the way they fight.

“I feel confident against those two, I really do fancy my chances against them and everyone else in the field.”

The 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