Europe

Brother of Brussels bomber inches closer to Olympics with taekwondo title

In this May 19, 2016 picture Belgium's Mourad Laachraoui takes a break during his fight against Spain's Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, during their men -54kg final at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland.

In this May 19, 2016 picture Belgium's Mourad Laachraoui takes a break during his fight against Spain's Jesus Tortosa Cabrera, during their men -54kg final at the European Taekwondo Championships in Montreux, Switzerland.  (AP)

Mourad Laachraoui, the brother of one of the Brussels airport suicide bombers, keeps enhancing his Olympic taekwondo prospects after winning his third gold medal this year.

Laachraoui earned his biggest title yet in the European taekwondo championships, when he beat Jesus Tortosa Cabrera of Spain 6-3 in the under-54 kilogram final this week. That was after he defeated Stanislav Denisov of Russia, a world championship bronze medalist last year, in the semifinals.

Laachraoui was a younger brother of Najim Laachraoui, who blew himself up in Brussels in March and whose DNA was also found on the suicide vests of two men in the Paris attacks. After the Brussels attacks, Laachraoui distanced himself from his brother, saying he'd had no contact with Najim since he left for Syria in 2013.

Mourad stayed in Belgium, and said he felt "scared and saddened" by the attacks.

This year, he's won his division in the U.S. Open in February and Luxor Open in Egypt in March, and has bronzes from the Canadian Open and Fujairah Open.

Ranked third in the world in his class, he has already qualified for the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. But with only four classes at Rio, Laachraoui doesn't make the top-10 rankings in the lightest Olympic class, under-58kg. If Belgium picks him, he will meet heavier fighters.