• Taekwondo

Cook considers nationality switch after London snub

ESPN staff
October 8, 2012
Aaron Cook is looking at ways to switch national allegiances © Getty Images

World No. 1 taekwondo player Aaron Cook is looking to switch national allegiances after being snubbed by the Great Britain selectors for London 2012.

Cook, the reigning European champion, was at the centre of a huge controversy prior to this summer's Olympic Games, as he was surprisingly overlooked by Great Britain Taekwondo for their sole selection place in the under-80kg category in favour of Lutalo Muhammad, the then-world No. 59.

Cook, who conducted his training outside the GB Taekwondo set-up, believed his omission was down to internal politics, although Muhammad did ultimately go on to take a bronze medal.

The 21-year-old has now made initial overtures towards the United States and France about representing them at international level, and has contacted the World Taekwondo Federation - to whom he appealed, unsuccessfully, against his Olympic snub - about competing as an independent athlete for future events where GB Taekwondo may again be tempted to omit him.

GB Taekwondo say they hope to rebuild relations with Cook, but it remains to be seen how the youngster will respond.

"We are about to try to open discussions, but we don't know what the reception will be," Gary Hall, the performance director of GB Taekwondo, told The Times. "We're pretty keen to work with Aaron. We'll go in [to discussions] with an open mind. It might mean that he doesn't come back into the academy, but we have an arrangement where we work together."

Cook seems unlikely to rebuild relations easily, however, after expressing the depth of his distrust for the selectors during the Olympics.

"I should have been fighting there," he told BBC Radio Five Live at the time. "I am extremely bitter, I am extremely disappointed and that will never go away. It should have been me.

"This decision is going to be with me for the rest of my life and I don't think I will ever be on speaking terms with the selectors."

Competing as an independent athlete is an option for Cook in WTF events - but not at the Olympic Games, where such concessions are typically only offered to athletes whose parent countries are not recognised by the International Olympic Committee.

If Cook wants to compete at Rio 2016 he will likely need to rebuild relations with GB Taekwondo or switch nationalities, then, although the latter option brings with it obstacles that could include a two-year absence from international competition.

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