‘Highlight of my year’: Silver smiles for Muhammad at World Taekwondo Grand Prix

Lutalo Muhammad claimed silver at last night’s final of the World Taekwondo Grand Prix at the Manchester Regional Arena after losing to Tunisia’s Oussama Ouesleti 16-6.

The Olympic bronze medallist saw his opponent take an early lead and,despite a late resurgence, the Team GB athlete was unable to deal with the emphatic Ouesleti in the final round.

While admitting that the medal wrapped around his neck at the end of the night wasn’t the desired colour, the 24-year-old was all smiles after a rousing show for the Brits.

“Certainly from where I’ve come from with injuries I should be happy that I could make this Grand Prix and be able to compete in front of this home crowd,” said the Walthamstow-born Muhammad.

“I can only do it once a year so that’s why it would’ve been super special to get the gold but I got a silver medal and I’m very grateful for that.

“I’m just happy I did in Manchester, it was the highlight of my year.”

In the semi-final Muhammad enjoyed an emphatic 9-5 victory against the Iranian world number one Mahdi Khodabakshi, who had previously won 42 of his 47 registered fights.

Muhammad, energised by the vocal home support, was incisive in the third round, repelling an offensive Khodabakshi to score five points and secure a place in the final.

Muhammad said: “He’s world number one and world champion and I was able to beat him, so I’m very happy and that’s one of the positives to take from today.”

He had also beaten fellow Britons Damon Sansum and Tom Smith on his road to the final but Muhammad rejected any rivalry between him and fellow Rio hopeful Sansum.

“It’s nothing like that, there’s literally nothing but respect between the two of us, and I hope this continues.

“Of course, the way it was built up I know Damon, like me, really relished the opportunity and hoped it would happen and I’m glad it did.”

Muhammad’s silver medal proved to be Great Britain’s third in a fantastic weekend for Team GB’s athletes ahead of next year’s Games.

Olympic champion Jade Jones clinched gold in the -57kg final while Bianca Walkden settled for silver after narrowly missing out in the Golden Point round in the +67kg category.

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