Two-time Olympic medallist Lutalo Muhammad is hoping to win gold and complete his set of medals at this summer’s Tokyo games.
The British taekwondo athlete won bronze at London 2012 and silver in Rio four years later – but that silver is tinged in heartbreak.
Muhammad, 29, was winning his final in Rio when a head kick from his opponent changed his certain gold medal to silver in a heartbeat.
Afterwards, he suffered a host of online abuse and trolling.
As a black athlete this is something he has grown up with all his life.
He told Sky News: “I received racism then [in 2016] and I receive it now.
“We still have a long way to go but I’m glad racism and the effect of racism is at the forefront of people’s minds right now.
“I hope it doesn’t turn out to be a trend.
“It’s very difficult as a black person to even try and understand why someone would treat you differently or call you something over something outside your control – no one choses what colour they are.”
Rather than feeling frustration at having to prepare for a postponed games in a lockdown, he said he views the year as a blessing.
Having returned home to London from British Taekwondo’s base in Manchester, Muhammad trained again under his taekwondo coach father Wayne, just like he did when he was young.
“It was amazing going back to my roots, training with my dad every day and relearning secrets and tips that took me to the top in the first place,” he said.
“I was able to extract so many positives from that lockdown period. Being at home for all those months, training with my pops, my man, training with the old G, that’s Master Muhammad to you, only I can call him that.”
Muhammad has had his fair share of injuries this Olympic cycle and is in competition with Mahama Cho for the one spot on the British team in the 80k weight category.
But he is convinced it’s his destiny to win gold at a games that will hold special significance after the COVID pandemic.
“I think the Olympics can act as a beacon of hope. People around the world can draw inspiration from seeing their athletes do their best and I think we’ll have more eyes on this Olympics than any Olympics previously.”
It took him a while to get over the disappointment of not winning gold in 2016, but now when he talks about the moment which reduced him to tears on national television, it’s only about the good that came from it.
Muhammad said: “My whole life I wanted to be Olympic champion. I never thought about much else.
“It was a goal set by me and my father 21 years ago and coming so close to having it in reach, being able to taste it, to have it snatched away it hurt so much at the time.
“The aftermath taught me that although I thought it was all I needed in life, I realised I didn’t need it to be happy. I want to be Olympic champion but if doesn’t happen I’m ok with that.”
He is also proud that the man who pipped him to the gold, his friend Cheick Sallah Cisse from Ivory Coast, went on to inspire kids all over Africa to take up the sport.
Ironically, the last second loss has made him more of a personality and brought more sponsorship than if he’d finished on top of the podium.
“When someone is going through the agonising feeling of defeat in front of the whole world it’s something we can all tap into and draw inspiration from,” Muhammad said.
“Failure hurts but if you get up and keep going and try again you aren’t a failure – you’re a winner.”