Lutalo Muhammad has long made peace with how he just missed out on gold in Rio - now he’s on a mission to complete his set of Olympic taekwondo medals, writes Brad West.
His Olympic story already has plenty of plot twists. He was a controversial selection for London 2012 but emerged through the blaze of publicity to claim a battling bronze.
While three years ago he settled for silver, a last-ditch spinning kick from the Ivory Coast’s Cheick Sallah Cissé, snatching gold in one of the most dramatic moments of those Games.
An experience like that could break a man but Lutalo who is well on the way to recovery following knee issues which forced him to withdraw from the World Championships in May, is made of stronger stuff.
“You have to look at things from a bird’s eye view sometimes,” said Lutalo, as Team GB athletes celebrated one year to the Tokyo Games.
“As strange as it may seem, missing out on the gold by less than a second in a way that will probably never happen again was maybe meant to happen.
“It’s almost like it’s a natural progression, having won bronze [in London] and then silver [in Rio]. It’s very motivational for me to have people following my story now, willing me on.
“I’ve always been big on being mentally strong. That has served me extremely well during my career through the trying times. I pride myself on having that mental strength and while I was injured I worked on that more, focusing on my mental strategy.
“I made these goals for myself 19 years ago watching the Olympic gold medal match at Sydney in what was then a brand new sport in the Olympics.
“Next year will mark 20 years and I believe it will all come full circle for me and I’ll finally be Olympic champion.”
With only one year to go until Tokyo, his journey to the Games will involve an early trip to the Japanese capital in September for a Grand Prix series event where Lutalo hopes to secure Olympic qualification.
He added: “It’ll be a preview of what’s to come. I’m coming to win in September and I’m definitely coming to win in 2020.
“I’ve got a big year next year and fortunately I feel up to the task. One of the things about being injured physically is it not only gives you perspective but it forces you to focus on all the other areas which make you successful.
“I feel like I’m coming back not at a disadvantage but with a bang. I can’t wait to show the rest of the heavyweight division what they’ve been sorely lacking.”
As Lutalo touches upon, he has had further adversity to deal with in the form of a move up to heavyweight ahead of 2020.
But, in accordance with the character of the Brit, he has taken this challenge in his stride and, even, admits it was long overdue.
“I’m loving the transition to heavyweight,” he added.
“It’s the complete opposite of where I was before at welterweight where I really had to struggle to make the weight.
“It got to a stage where I’d been at the same weight for 12 years and I’d just grown out of it. My body is transitioning now and I’m loving not having to drain myself.
“I believe the best performances from myself are still to come. The heavyweight version of me will be the best version and I can’t wait to show the world exactly what I’m talking about.”
It has been a long journey to this point for someone who was first taught the art of taekwondo by his father, Wayne, at the age of three but Lutalo’s Olympic experiences have so far made it all worth it.
He said: “The Olympics is absolutely amazing. When I walked out for my first fight in 2012 I couldn’t even hear the sound of my own voice.
“I knew then this was something special and something not to be taken for granted. To be at an Olympics knowing the entire world is watching you and your country is supporting you is beautiful.”