Lutalo Muhammad: I might be the TV breakout star of the Games but I still want another Olympic medal

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4-min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
Lutalo Muhammad - Lutalo Muhammad: I might be the TV breakout star of the Games but I still want another Olympic medal
Lutalo Muhammad - Lutalo Muhammad: I might be the TV breakout star of the Games but I still want another Olympic medal

When the taekwondo action at the Tokyo Olympics concluded on Tuesday, there was a palpable flatness across social media as it dawned on viewers that Muhammad Lutalo’s punditry stint for the BBC was over.

Britain’s two-time Olympic medalist has become the TV breakout star of this Games. As the nation fell in love with the excitement of taekwondo, Muhammad’s smooth tone of voice and authoritative style, some eagerly pointed out, was perfect for a slot on CBeebies Bedtime Stories, the popular children’s TV show where heartthrob actors Tom Hiddlestone and Bridgerton’s Regé-Jean Page have soothed parenting bedtime routines everywhere.

A warmth and eloquence balanced with his measured assessment of Britain’s opponents and demonstrations of taekwondo’s repertoire of kicks, and – out of nowhere, Grazia magazine noted – ‘Lutalo Muhammad partner’ and ‘Lutalo Muhammaed wife’ started doing the rounds on Google searches.

“I feel more popular as a pundit than a taekwondo athlete, which is so surreal,” laughs the 30-year-old. “I have seen some of those tweets. It feels like a massive blessing right now. I’ve seen those reactions and it makes me feel very happy and proud that I was able to represent my sport well.”

The exploits of Britain’s taekwondo team in Tokyo is likely to ensure Britain’s blossoming pedigree in the sport, with Bradly Sinden and Lauren Williams winning silver medals before Bianca Walkden added a bronze. Muhammad’s magic, though, helped to bring it to life on screen.

He proved the perfect antidote when Walken, a three-time world champion, agonisingly lost her semi-final in the dying moments of the match, having experienced similar heartache in Rio when a spinning hook kick to the head in the last second of the match cruelly snatched the gold medal away from him.

Watching his colleagues, he says, has whetted his appetite for Paris 2024, having missed out on Britain’s solitary quota place after a year hampered by injury. “Mentally, physically and spiritually, I’m the best I’ve ever felt and my body is in the right place to attack these next three years,” says Muhammad. “I still feel like my best work in the taekwondo ring is ahead of me, not behind me.”

He has, however, made peace with the idea that the gold might always elude him. Ever since stepping onto a taekwondo mat aged three under the guidance of his father and lifetime coach, Wayne, Muhammad spawned an early obsession for the Olympics, plastering his bedroom wall with posters of iconic black athletes including British sprinter Linford Christie and Michael Johnston. Now, his mentality has shifted.

“I used to feel like the gold medal is always this mythical thing,” he says. “I felt like I needed that gold medal to complete myself. But what not attaining the gold medal taught me was that I was complete without it and I’ll be complete with it. I don’t need the gold to be complete. If I do get it, it’s a massive bonus of course, but I’ll be perfectly happy if I don’t. It’s that weird equilibrium. Maybe it’s called maturity. The gold medal represents something different to me now.”

Muhammad will be 33 should he make his third Olympics at Paris 2024. Conscious that he is entering the latter stage of his career, he has already turned to the likes of basketball veteran LeBron James and Tom Brady, the oldest player to contest a Super Bowl match aged 43, for inspiration. But it was Sarah Stevenson, Britain’s first Olympic medallist in taekwondo who won a bronze medal at the Beijing Games in 2008, who he idolised growing up and who he credits for the six Olympic medals Britain has claimed in taekwondo since.

“Sarah’s always represented that pioneer status to me – she was a key part of why we even got to where we are now in the first place,” he says. “We’ve almost seen a British renaissance of taekwondo in this country and it’s so bizarre – this Korean martial art is huge in Britain – and we’re bloody good at it. I don’t think there’s a better time to be a taekwondo athlete.”

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting