Taekwondo pair see an abrupt end to their hopes of gold

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The Independent Online

Of all the 542 athletes chosen to represent Team GB, Lutalo Muhammad had to endure perhaps the most lengthy and painful selection process. Sadly, his battle for gold in the Olympic taekwondo contest was abrupt but no less agonising.

The 21-year-old Londoner, who was selected ahead of world No 1 Aaron Cook, lost his second bout in the under-80kg division to a Spanish opponent yesterday, leaving him to fight for bronze in a further contest due last night.

Muhammad, who revealed that he had received hate mail over the controversial decision to drop Cook from the taekwondo squad, fell to the floor in despair in the ExCeL after losing 7-3 to Nicolas Hemme Garcia.

The fighter, who was born in Walthamstow, said: "There are no excuses to be made. I am very disappointed. I came here to win gold, and that is an opportunity which won't come across again [to fight at a home Olympics], but I have to live with that."

Cook, who had threatened to take the decision not to select him all the way to the High Court, said yesterday that he was desperate to represent Britain at Rio 2016 but feared his relationship with British Taekwondo was broken beyond repair.

He told BBC Radio 5 Live: "All my training and everything I am going to do now is going to be based towards [Rio] and I am really excited … All I can do is keep my head down, keep focused, keep trying to win and win more titles and hopefully they'll select me."

A day after the triumph of Welsh teenager Jade Jones, hopes had been high that Britain would continue their golden start in the contact sport.

But there was further disappointment when another medal hope, Sarah Stevenson, 29, lost in her opening round of the under-67kg division.

Stevenson, whose parents died within months of each other last year, had fought back from injury after tearing a ligament earlier this year but succumbed to her American opponent, Paige McPherson, 5-1.

The Doncaster-based fighter, who saw her chances of proceeding to a bronze medal contest end when McPherson subsequently failed to reach the final, said: "The injury did not play a part today. It has been a mental fight every day for the last 18 months, and I did my best.

"My mum and dad would have wanted me to be here, and they would have been proud. I would have been forgiven for sitting and crying in a corner, but I am not a quitter."