GOLDEN BOY LUTALO MAKES HIS POINT AT WTF WORLD TAEKWONDO GRAND PRIX
Lutalo Muhammad promises “fireworks” when he finally meets Aaron Cook but thanks to Russian Albert Gaun taekwondo’s ‘Battle of Britain’ is on hold until next year.
But while Gaun temporarily put paid to the big bang theory with victory over Cook in the semi-finals, Muhammad erupted in joy after a thrilling victory in the final of the -80kg weight division.
Last year’s Olympic bronze medallist left it late before obtaining parity with 21-year-old Gaun, a World Championship bronze medallist at -74kg earlier this summer. Having tied the scores at 1-1, the ‘Walthamstow Warrior’ then had a last second, three point head shot chalked off by the judges.
Undeterred, he recovered his poise to snatch golden point and become Britain’s second WTF World Grand Prix champion after heavyweight Mahama Cho’s success 24 hours earlier.
“That would have been a fantastic fight,” smiled Muhammad when asked about his near miss against Beijing Olympian Cook.
“I know it’s the fight the fans want to see. It would have been nice but the nature of this sport means we fight so often, especially with this Grand Prix series, I am sure me and Mr Cook will meet and it will be fireworks when we do meet.”
A handshake between the GB star and his Isle of Man rival at the presentation ceremony showed there is little animosity between the pair.
“There is always respect between me and Mr Cook,” said Muhammad. “It’s just a healthy rivalry.
“It is taekwondo’s Sugar Ray Leonard, Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler. It’s the match people want to see but we will just have to wait a bit longer.
“It’s all about Rio now for me. This is the first major step for Rio and I am happy I was able to put my big sized 12 stamp into the lead. I am happy to win this first Grand Prix and hopefully it is the first of many to come.”
Gaun certainly did his best to put paid to both Brits in quick succession. He was never behind against Cook, quickly racing into a 5-0 lead before a trademark, four point scoring, reverse head kick brought Dorset born, Manchester based Cook back into contention.
However, Guan refused to yield the initiative and he led 9-8 with only four seconds remaining.
Cook enjoyed the lifeline of a penalty point to force sudden death as the Russians appealed unsuccessfully against the referee’s decision. It mattered not as Gaun secured the decisive golden point to take him through to the final.
Cook, who won a thrilling quarter-final against America’s five time world champion and double Olympic gold medallist, Steven Lopez, wiped back the tears but admitted: “I am absolutely gutted. It was a very tight match and really close all the way.
“But I have had some hard matches today and I just came up short. Fair play to Lutalo, he made it to the final but I would have loved to be there.
“Every time I got through a round and he got through a round, it built the pressure. I am gutted but I just didn’t quite have enough. I will be back.”
The -80kg division lived upto the pre- tournament hype with Britain’s Andrew Deer revelling in the partisan home atmosphere to beat Germany’s world champion, Tahir Gulec, 17-8 in the last 32. World number one Ramin Azizov didn’t survive beyond the last 16, beaten by Turkey’s Ridvan Baygut, one of Muhammad’s five victims.
Chinese Taipei enjoyed a night of mixed fortunes on the distinctive black and white mat. Cheng-yang Wei took the -58kg weight division title with a 6-5 win over Chung Chia Chia of South Korea, a category that saw world champion Tae-Moon Cha stunned by Britain’s Dominic Brookes in the last 16.
However, Wei’s compatriot, Chung Chia Chia lost 9-2 against Sweden’s Elin Johansson in the -67kg weight division. Johansson has enjoyed a tremendous year winning Opens in the US, Russia and Israel but tonight’s victory for the 23-year-old tops the lot.
Men – 58kg final:
Chen-yang Wei (Chinese Taipei) bt Taehun Kim 6-5
Women’s -67kg final:
Elin Johansson (Sweden) bt Chung Chia Chia (Chinese Taipei) 9-2
Order of Play for Sunday, December 15 (10.30am start)
–68kg: Jordan Gayle (Manchester), Michael Harvey (Manchester) and Martin Stamper (Liverpool)
-57kg: Caroline Fisher (Barnsley) and Jade Jones (Bodelwyddan, Flint)
Results (GB only):
Men 58kg: Dominic Brookes (Manchester)
- Round One (Last 32): bt Meisam Bagheri (Iran) 12-3
- Round Two (Last 16): bt Tae-moon Cha (South Korea) 25-13
- Quarter-final: lost on sudden death (4-4 after 3 rounds) to Hadi Loron (Iran)
-80kg: Andrew Deer (Tamworth)
- Round One (last 32): bt Tahir Guelec (Germany) 17-8
- Round Two (Last 16): lost 7-3 to Steven Lopez (USA)
Lutalo Muhammad (Walthamstow)
- Round One (last 32): bt Sen Qiao (China) 8-1
- Round Two (last 16): bt Nabil Hassan (Jordan) 12-4
- Quarter-final: bt Ridvan Baygut (Turkey) 8-5
- Semi-final: bt Yunus Sari (Turkey) 6-0
- Final: bt Albert Gaun (Russia) in sudden death (1-1 after three rounds)
Maria Reynolds (Liverpool)
- Round One: lost 13-0 to Paige McPherson (USA).