From winning the hearts of the public with his emotional interview after agonisingly missing out on taekwondo gold at Rio 2016, to winning the Children in Need Strictly special – Lutalo Muhammad now has only one thing on his mind and that’s winning Olympic gold at Tokyo 2020.
The 25-year-old lost gold in the final second of his bout in Rio, taking home a silver medal to go with his bronze from London 2012, but he now wants to give the final chapter of his book a fairytale ending by going one better and winning sport’s ultimate accolade in four years time.
And having gone so close this summer, the Walthamstow-born athlete knows exactly what it will take to stand on the top of the podium in Japan.
“I’m going to get gold in Tokyo,” said Muhammad at the SportsAid SportsBall. “It’s been an incredible journey for me and my book is going to be so exciting, but the last chapter won’t read very well if I don’t get that gold medal in Tokyo.
“I know, from coming so close this time around, that it is doable, it’s right there, I’m going to do all the same things, I’m going to improve and get into that Olympic final next time, and with one second to go, I’m going to duck.
“I have to keep setting myself goals. The road to Tokyo is a long one. We’ve got the World Championships next year in Korea, the home of taekwondo, so that’s going to be a really exciting one to go on and try to win.”
And with the recent announcement of a home World Championships in 2019 to look forward to, the Middlesex University graduate wants to go into Tokyo already on top of the world.
But while he claims 2020 would be the final chapter in his book, he admits those Games may not be his last.
“I know myself, right now, I’m still young and I’ve still got at least one more Games in me,” he added. “But realistically I will still be a very good age in 2024, we’re just going to have to cross that bridge when it comes to it.”
While back in light training with his father, Muhammad has been making the most of his respite from a full-time workload, with the highlight coming when he won the Children in Need Strictly Come Dancing special.
“It was the hardest amount of fun I have ever had in my life,” he added. “It’s about time I won something this year, so it was good to be on top of the podium, back where I belong!”
Muhammad was a recipient of SportsAid funding early in his sporting career, and attended Thursday’s 40th Anniversary ball to celebrate the work of the charity, who fund more than 1,100 young athletes each year, and whose alumni won 150 medals in Rio this summer.
“They were one of the first people to give me funding, and when you’re a young athlete getting funding is great, because it’s the back of mum and dad before then,” he admitted.
“But it also gives you the feeling that someone else believes in you, apart from your family and friends, so getting that external cheque is like ‘yeah, I’m doing the right thing, I’m getting noticed and hopefully I’m on my way’.”
SportsAid’s 40th anniversary SportsBall was sponsored by Eversheds and SSE. What will you do to support the next generation of sporting talent? Please visit www.sportsaid.org.uk to find out how you can help.