World runner-up Damon Sansum faces major battle

Britons Damon Sansum, left, and Lutalo Muhammad battle it out at the World Grand Prix in Manchester. Picture: Getty

Britons Damon Sansum, left, and Lutalo Muhammad battle it out at the World Grand Prix in Manchester. Picture: Getty

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Elgin’s world championship silver medallist Damon Sansum faces a major selection battle for the Rio Olympics next year after Lutalo Muhammad’s heroics in the World Grand Prix finals in Mexico City.

Muhammad capped his comeback from a recent knee injury by beating former rival Aaron Cook to the prize on Saturday and confirming a GB slot in the men’s -80kg category for Rio 2016.

Now GB Taekwondo chiefs are bracing themselves for another Olympic selection headache.

Muhammad was at the centre of controversy when he was picked over then world No 1 Cook for London 2012 – and went on to win a bronze medal.

And now selectors must pick between the in-form 24-year-old and team-mate Sansum, who marked a consistent season by winning his world silver medal in Russia in May.

Muhammad, who did not go to the worlds because of a knee injury, said: “I have had my challenges this year but I have come back to book the spot for GB.

“Rio has been the number one factor in inspiring me and the fact it is so close is surreal because it doesn’t seem so long since I was winning my medal in London. But my desire to win a gold medal is unmatched and I think I’ve shown this year that despite being hampered by injury I am still capable of achieving my goals when I put my mind to it.”

Muhammad had trailed 
Sansum in the rankings for much of the campaign but grabbed a crucial win over his team-mate in the recent World Grand Prix in Manchester.

That swung the momentum in the Walthamstow man’s favour but GB performance director Gary Hall acknowledged selectors face a tough decision before the team is named in June.

Hall said: “There is no doubt Lutalo has done an exceptional job but Damon has also done an exceptional job in winning the world silver medal.

“It is a tough decision and it is such a shame that we are not able to select them both but we are building a programme in Manchester which is designed to make these kinds of decisions possible. “We have had a fantastic year medalling in all the major competitions and hitting our medal targets, and we have managed to qualify three athletes automatically for an Olympics for the first time.”

Reigning Olympic champion Jade Jones and current world champion Bianca Walkden have also qualified for GB quota places in the women’s -57kg and +73kg categories respectively.

And Great Britain could take a fourth athlete to Rio with one more men’s slot available should they come through one of the remaining qualification events early next year.

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