Taekwondo pundit Lutalo Muhammad becomes BBC’s breakout Olympic star
The BBC has faced a lot of criticism over its Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games coverage, but one element that seems to have only attracted praise has been the reassuring and calm presence of Lutalo Muhammad giving his expertise during the taekwondo events.
As well as his soothing voice, Muhammad has been happy to demonstrate some of his moves in the BBC’s virtual studio, while also noting that he’d have to be careful not to split his trousers while executing the high kicks, much to the amusement of his co-presenters.
He was also able to offer additional insight into the career of Bradly Sinden, as the two used to share a flat. Viewers have praised the way that Muhammad has spoken of Team GB’s athletes even in their disappointment at the Tokyo Games, offering reassurance that, despite defeats, athletes like Sinden have “represented himself and his country very well today, he should stand tall and stand proud”.
Muhammad had a successful Olympic career in taekwondo, winning bronze in London in 2012, and then going a step further with a silver in 2016. His selection for the London Games ahead of Aaron Cook, the world No1 at the time, caused a huge controversy, and Cook at one point threatened legal action against the British Olympic Association.
In the final bout of the −80kg category in Rio in 2016 Muhammad was leading with just a second to go, before a spinning hook kick to the head by his opponent, Cheick Sallah Cissé of Ivory Coast, turned the scores around.
Muhammad was visibly distressed in an interview after the fight, telling viewers: “I’m so sorry for the people that stayed up late to watch and cheer me on. To let them down at the last second. I’m so sorry, this is so hard. I’m so distraught to be on the losing end here, I have to wait four years for another chance.”
It transpired that he would not get another Olympic chance, having suffered a series of injuries in between Rio and Tokyo, but he would nevertheless become one of the breakout stars of the delayed 2020 Games.
Viewers could only sympathise with him after the BBC showed footage of his reaction as a similar last-second defeat unfolded to send Bianca Walkden crashing out at the semi-final stage of her +67kg competition. After first putting his hands to his head in despair, he briefly walked off the BBC set to compose himself before discussing the defeat.
Team GB have picked up two silver medals and a bronze in taekwondo in Japan, where the Rio gold medallist Jade Jones made headlines after her shock early exit.
Muhammad has also become an ambassador for the sport in general, and at last year’s SportsAid he trained the Duchess of Cambridge to throw a taekwondo punch and jokingly praised her “mean right hand”.
Alas for viewers enjoying his punditry, Tuesday marked the end of the taekwondo competition, meaning we are unlikely to be seeing Muhammad again during the Olympics. On the bright side, Paris 2024 is only three years away, and surely the BBC will be looking to have his smooth relaxing delivery on Cbeebies Bedtime Stories very soon.