Saturday 3 December 2016

The most dramatic finish at the Rio games saw an athlete lose a gold medal with ONE second left

Mark Staniforth

Published 20/08/2016 | 11:58

Lutalo Muhammad described the "horrible moment" when his Olympic gold medal dream was dashed in the final second of a dramatic men's -80kg taekwondo final at the Rio Olympic Park on Friday.

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Muhammad looked set to emulate his Great Britain team-mate Jade Jones when Ivory Coast opponent Cheick Sallah Cisse swung a last-gasp head-kick which snatched an 8-6 win just as the final buzzer sounded.

Cisse tore away to wildly celebrate his nation's first Olympic gold while the 25-year-old Londoner stood dazed in the middle of the mat, his hopes of victory ripped away in the most heartbreaking fashion.

Muhammad, who won bronze at London 2012, said: "It's a horrible moment when at the last second his points have gone on the board and the time has run out and there is nothing you can do about it.

"I hit him in the head and it didn't come up for me and I had to re-focus. I went to the body, I was up, and it was the last kick. My check skimmed off, and his reverse hit."

Muhammad had set the pace in a dramatic and keenly contested final, scoring with a three-point head kick in the first and edging back ahead early in the last after the Ivorian responded with a three-pointer of his own.

The Briton led 6-4 going into the final moments when Cisse clawed back a single point then struck for the most incredible of finishes as the clock ticked down to zero.

Muhammad admitted: "Obviously, the emotions are very raw right now. It's tough to lose in the Olympic final, especially in the last second of a match I was winning.

"It does make it all the more painful. If I was losing throughout I would accept it, but I came very close to achieving my goal, and I am going to have to settle for second best today."

Muhammad had battled to qualify for his second Games, defying a knee injury and a challenge from team-mate Damon Sansum to seal his spot by winning the World Grand Prix finals in Mexico in December.

And he set about making light of a tough-looking draw, starting with a comprehensive 14-0 win over Hayder Shkara of Australia.

Six-time world champion Steven Lopez was next up for Muhammad but the 37-year-old is clearly a fading force and the Briton brushed him aside 9-2 to move into the semi-finals.

There he faced his toughest challenge against Azerbaijan's Milad Beigi Harchegani, who himself had dispatched top seed and former world champion Mahdi Khodabakhshi of Iran in the previous round.

Muhammad set the pace in a cagey contest which burst into life in the final minute when two consecutive head kicks secured him a 12-7 win and a place in the final against the reigning African champion.

Despite the cruel nature of defeat, Muhammad immediately focused on the future, adding: "I'm very proud to be here, a two-time Olympian and a two-time Olympic medallist - bronze, silver, so we know what's next.

"I'm going to take some time off and get my thinking right and I'm sure I'll be back and hungry again."

Former Great Britain fighter Aaron Cook, who was controversially overlooked for selection in favour of Muhammad in 2012 and now represents Moldova, was surprisingly beaten in his opening contest by Wei-Ting Liu of Chinese Taipei.

Press Association

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