TAEKWONDO: Cook keen to carry on alone

Dorset Echo: DEFEATED: Aaron Cook in action agianst Russia's Albert Gaun in the Men's 80kg semi final, during the World Grand Prix Series DEFEATED: Aaron Cook in action agianst Russia's Albert Gaun in the Men's 80kg semi final, during the World Grand Prix Series

AARON Cook insists he has no intentions of returning to the Great Britain fold after falling short in his quest to land a domestic grudge match against his Olympic nemesis Lutalo Muhammad in the World Grand Prix in Manchester.

Dorchester’s Cook was beaten by Russia’s Albert Gaun in sudden death overtime in their semi-final on Saturday night in a match which determined who would face Muhammad in the final of the men’s 80kg category.

The 22-year-old has represented the Isle of Man since 2012, when he quit the GB programme after being controversially overlooked for selection to London 2012 in favour of Muhammad, who went on to win a bronze medal.

Hopes were high that Cook and Muhammad would go some way to settling their lingering dispute in Manchester, but Cook’s defeat ensured that would not happen. Muhammad went on to beat Gaun, also in sudden death overtime, to win the inaugural Grand Prix title.

Cook has trained alone in a gym at his home since being stripped of central funding following his decision to defect.

Despite the insistence of British officials that they would welcome him back, he is adamant he intends to to stick to his own independent programme.

Cook said: “I am happy with what I’m doing and it’s working because I’m up there with the top 32 in the world.

“I’ve shown I’m a world-class player and I’m doing it my way with the support and coaching I love.

“I shouldn’t have to change what I’m doing. This is just another time to prove it. I have bagged some more points and I have just got to do it time and time again. I can do it all off my own back and hopefully I will get my shot at the Olympics.”

For Cook to go to Rio would require further bridge-building. Although he is able to represent the Isle of Man at all major taekwondo events, his qualifying points could only count towards a place for Great Britain at the Olympics.

Conceivably, were Great Britain to qualify two quota places for the men’s 80kg category, it would come down to another straight choice between Muhammad, who is fully immersed in the GB programme, and Cook, who is not.

While both men are clearly eager to end a dispute which became fractious when Cook said he felt “cheated” of a place at the Games, both are at pains to point out it is nothing personal with Cook congratulating Muhammad on his path to the final.

Muhammad, whose win over Gaun – who won a world silver medal earlier this year in a lighter weight category – establishes himself at the top of his division, was also in the mood to pay tribute to his rival.

“There’s always respect bet-ween me and Mr Cook,” said Muhammad. “It’s a healthy rivalry – this is taekwondo’s Sugar Ray Leonard against Tommy Hearns or Marvin Hagler. It’s the match people want to see and we will just have to wait a little bit longer.”

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