Taekwondo: Muhammad rises above GB selection controversy to win medal

Londoner takes bronze to become first British man to stand on Olympic podium

Lutalo Muhammad has been the innocent victim at the heart of the controversy that has divided his sport in the last three months but the 21-year-old Londoner put the politics behind him last night to become the first British man ever to win an Olympic medal in taekwondo. Twenty-four hours after Jade Johnson won Britain's first gold in the sport, Muhammad left the arena with a bronze.

During the furore over the omission of Aaron Cook, the world No 1, from the British team, Muhammad had to try to remain focused on his Olympic debut. When he lost 7-2 in the quarter-finals to Spain's Nicolas Garcia Hemme – who went on to lose the gold medal match to Argentina's Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich – it seemed that he might leave the competition empty-handed.

However, Muhammad won a repechage against Iran's Yousef Karami 11-7 to earn a shot at the bronze medal against Arman Yeremyan, a 26-year-old Armenian. Muhammad dominated from the start, going 3-0 up after only 25 seconds with a kick to the head. The European champion led 8-2 going into the final round and went on to win 9-3, upon which he saluted all corners of the arena.

Muhammad, whose parents were in the noisy, flag-waving crowd, said afterwards: "My coaches said: 'This bronze medal is now your gold medal. You've got to treat it like a final. You've got to go for it as if you're going for the gold medal.' That put me in the right state mentally. This medal isn't the colour that I wanted, but it was hard-earned. I fought hard for it. I'm very grateful, very happy that I've got this reward."

Asked whether he had felt any pressure to justify his selection, Muhammad said: "That was never on my mind. That was never a reason to try to do well. I just wanted to win a gold medal for Team GB. I won a bronze medal and I'm very proud and very happy. The crowd were tremendous. I'm so happy the GB fans came out in force. They made it fantastic. I'm not sure I would have been able to do it without them."

When they made their decision to omit Cook the selectors said they thought Muhammad, the world No 59, was the fighter more likely to perform well at these Games because of his height. Given the two head kicks that contributed significantly to Muhammad's victory in the bronze medal match, they may feel vindicated in their decision.

Cook, who believes he was overlooked because of his decision to train outside the official British Taekwondo programme, was in the arena on Thursday night when Jones won gold but told BBC Radio 5 Live yesterday morning that he would not be watching Muhammad fight.

"I'll be in tears," he said. "I should have been fighting there today. I didn't want to wake up this morning. I was in absolute pieces. It's been difficult. It's been the hardest six weeks of my life and I really have to think about whether I want to continue in this sport."

Cook said that he would never speak again to Gary Hill, the performance director of British Taekwondo. "This decision is going to be with me for the rest of my life," he said. "I don't think I will ever be able to draw a line under it."

The tears have flowed like the Thames at this Olympics and if Sarah Stevenson had added to Britain's medal tally the capital would probably have been put on flood alert. There would hardly have been a more popular winner than the country's most celebrated taekwondo fighter, but Stevenson's Games ended when she was beaten 5-1 by Paige McPherson, the eventual bronze medallist, in her opening contest. The Korean Hwang Kyung-seon beat Turkey's Nur Tatar to win the gold.

For so long the standard bearer of taekwondo in Britain, Stevenson was competing in her fourth Olympics, having achieved her best result when she won a bronze medal four years ago. For the last 18 months, however, her mind has been on other matters. In January last year Stevenson's mother, Diana, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Within weeks of her beginning chemotherapy treatment, the fighter's father, Roy, was told that he had a brain tumour.

Stevenson withdrew from competitions in order to care for her parents, who had always been her greatest inspiration, but both died before the end of the year. She now has a tattoo on her wrist that says "because of you", in memory of them.

Having also had to cope with a serious knee injury, Stevenson was clearly not in the best shape to compete, but she insisted: "I went out there really focused. I wanted it. I wanted to win. I wanted to be here. I wanted to fight. What's happened to me over the last year has put this into perspective. This is meant to be fun. This is the Olympics. This is not life or death. You should be here to have fun and give everything – and that's what I did."

Sport
German supporters (left) and Argentina fans
world cup 2014Final gives England fans a choice between to old enemies
Arts and Entertainment
Armando Iannucci, the creator of 'The Thick of It' says he has
tvArmando Iannucci to concentrate on US show Veep
Life and Style
Pepper, the 3ft 11in shiny box of circuits who can tell jokes and respond to human emotions
techDavid McNeill tests the mettle of one of the new generation of androids being developed in Tokyo
Arts and Entertainment
A still from the worldwide Dawn of the Planet of the Apes trailer debut
film
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Four ski officials in Slovenia have been suspended following allegations of results rigging
sportFour Slovenian officials suspended after allegations they helped violinist get slalom place
News
14 March 2011: George Clooney testifies before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee during a hearing titled 'Sudan and South Sudan: Independence and Insecurity.' Clooney is co-founder of the Satellite Sentinel Project which uses private satellites to collect evidence of crimes against civilian populations in Sudan
people
Arts and Entertainment
Balaban is indirectly responsible for the existence of Downton Abbey, having first discovered Julian Fellowes' talents as a screenwriter
tvCast members told to lose weight after snacking on set
Life and Style
More than half of young adults have engaged in 'unwanted but consensual sexting with a committed partner,' according to research
tech
Life and Style
A binge is classed as four or more alcoholic drinks for women and five or more for men, consumed over a roughly two-hour period
tech
Caption competition
Caption competition
Daily World Cup Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice