Ahead of the WFT World Taekwondo Grand Prix in Manchester later this month, Olympic bronze medallist Lutalo Muhammad talks to us about preparing for a major competition, his aims for gold in Manchester and his favourite books...
It’s only a couple of weeks until the Grand Prix in Manchester – are you excited?
Of course! There’s nothing like fighting in the UK. I’ve been blessed enough to fight on almost every continent and there’s nothing like the UK. Having these Grand Prix’s every year is almost like an extension of the Olympics. The home fans give great support and are so knowledgeable. The kids come out too and are always lively – I can’t wait.
Certainly with the younger people, they look up to some of the guys in the team and it’s inspiring to see them come out in full force – it makes it extra special.
It’s been a successful few years for GB Taekwondo – the mood in the camp must be pretty high?
Any tournament we go to, we do well at – we’re one of the premier teams in the world and it’s a great position to be in. It’s certainly the best place to be if you’re serious about winning major medals.
You’ve won gold, silver and bronze at the US, Turkish and Luxor Open this year – will there be gold in Manchester?
That’s the plan. I’m doing my best and determined to make that home support transfer into medals.
GB Taekwondo will be moving into a new Elite Training Centre soon, how much of an impact will that have on the setup?
I had a quick look and it’s going to be ridiculous. The current gym we use will be the new strength and conditioning gym, while the new facility will be twice the size – it’s going to be amazing. I’m super excited about it, it’s all going to be state-of-the-art and we’ll have everyone in the same complex which will make a great GB Taekwondo hub.
You recently tweeted that you were relaxing before a fight by watching some classic movies – what’s your favourite pre-fight film?
There are no secrets on social media! At the moment, I’m watching some old 1970s movies like Super Fly and Shaft but it depends on what mood I’m in.
How do you usually prepare in the hours before a competition?
I don’t really psych myself up to be honest, I’ve been doing it for so long I don’t really get those nerves like I used to. I’m sure of myself to a level that I focus on my game plan – what I want to do, how I’m going to exploit my opponent and that’s how I stay calm.
You’ve been competing in taekwondo since you were incredibly young – what do you feel those years of experience give you?
I’m certainly more seasoned, I’m like fine wine – getting better with age. In all seriousness, I feel like I’m better all-around as a fighter. Mentally, I’m a stronger athlete and my skills are better since London, better technically aware.
How important was the Fighting Chance talent ID programme to you becoming an Olympic medallist?
It is incredibly important and I’m so happy we’re continuing to do that. For me, I was already involved in WTF Taekwondo, so the talent campaign helped me make the most of the opportunity. Talent ID campaigns just open things up to all fighting sports, it’s critically important that we continue to find more talent.
We hear you’re a bit of a book worm – which book would you take to a desert island?
I do like to read, I tend to read the coming of age stories, like The Catcher in the Rye and I like Nick Hornby a lot. I like stories where the protagonist is in one place in his life and you follow them through their discovery, it makes sense from what I do and the nature of sports – you start in one place, train hard and you end up in another.
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