LONDON, England ● Lutalo Muhammad would happily face taekwondo world number one Aaron Cook in a ‘face-off’ to decide who gets a spot in Great Britain’s Olympic team following a storm of controversy over his selection.
Cook’s non-selection for London 2012 has provoked a huge row within the sport and beyond as Muhammad, ranked 59th in the world, was picked ahead of him in the under-80kg division after dropping down from the under-87kg class.
Other sports use play-offs to decide selection between domestic rivals and Muhammad insists he is open to the idea, saying: “I heard some rumours (of a face-off) and you know, my attitude is ‘whatever happens, happens’.”
Muhammad’s nomination was ratified by the British Olympic Association at the third time of asking last Friday.
Cook was overlooked three times by GB Taekwondo, with the BOA and the World Taekwondo Federation launching reviews into the selection process, but, barring any intervention from the WTF, it appears taking his case to the courts is the 21-year-old’s last hope of participating at London 2012.
Muhammad, meanwhile, insists the controversy has been hard on him too and added: “It’s been tough on both of us. It was always going to be a tough decision that would have created a tough ordeal for both of us. But I think the situation has really been blown way out of proportion more than any of us expected.
“It’s been tough on both of us and I don’t really think that’s been fair. At the end of the day we’re both European champions. We both just want to compete to the best of our ability so I think the fact that there’s been all this going on is probably not fair on me or him.
“I respect whatever decision is made. If it ever came to anything, I would have been up for it. But I respect their decision and am very happy to be going to the Games.
“Would I back myself to beat him? Of course!”
Cook’s management company later announced that he would hold a press conference in London at 11am on Wednesday.