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Cook: I cannot work with GB coaching staff
9:06am Wednesday 10th October 2012 in Local Sport
EUROPEAN champion and world number one Aaron Cook feels it remains impossible for him to work with the current British Taekwondo elite coaching staff.
Dorchester’s Cook, who left the Manchester-based GB Taekwondo Academy training programme in the run-up to the Olympics, was a controversial omission from the final squad for London 2012 with a place instead going to Lutalo Muhammad, who went on to win a bronze medal.
The 21-year-old, who saw his selection appeals to the British Olympic Association end in disappointment, is determined to fulfil his own Olympic ambitions in Rio – but insists that cannot be done under the current leadership of GB Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall.
Under-80kgs fighter Cook has written to WTF president Chung-won Choue to ask for world rankings to carry more weight in national selections, and also if he would be able to compete at future events such as the World Championships independent of the British squad.
British Taekwondo, meanwhile, have always maintained they are willing to work with any fighter – from inside or outside the Academy programme – who wants to compete internationally.
However, Cook believes there is little hope for reconciliation under the current structure.
Cook said: “I have been trying to get away from everything but, every time I wake up, it seems like a nightmare. I have got to try to find some peace and move forwards to focus on Rio.
“However, it is going to be extremely difficult for me to work with any of the people who made this decision – Gary Hall, coach Steve Jennings, British Taekwondo chairman Adrian Tranter, and coaches Paul Green and Joseph Salim.
“I can never work with them again and it would be impossible for me to be on any team where they are involved.
“Unless they resign, someone fires them or they leave, it is going to be very hard for me to move forwards and have a future in British taekwondo.
“I have dreamt since I was a little boy of winning Olympic gold, with the British national anthem playing and the flag behind me – that is still what we are pushing for.
“We are hopeful some change can come about, but we know how hard it is going to be.”
Cook, who is currently in America recovering from ankle surgery, remains in no doubt his decision to leave the Academy was ultimately behind the squad selection – a claim GB Taekwondo have always refuted.
“When I left the Academy, we had meetings with Gary Hall asking if he could help me in any way. He basically said: ‘if you are not in the Academy, then you don’t get any funding and we are not going to help you,” said Cook, who fought at the Beijing Games and suffered a controversial defeat in the bronze medal fight against China's Zhu Guo.
“Basically we knew we were on our own as soon as we left the academy.
“I have now my own team around me, using my own money, got myself back to world number one, so my results speak for themselves.
“There is no way I can go back down there and have any faith in what they are doing.”
Cook maintains under the current selection system, hopes of forcing his way back on the British squad are flawed.
He added: “If I did not get selected for our home Olympics when we did not have to qualify, I have beaten all the top players in the world, I am reigning European champion at the Olympic weight division, I should have been selected, and I wasn’t.
“It was all personal, not about competition results, it was absolutely disgusting.
“If I could not get selected for that then it is going to be extremely difficult to be selected for other tournaments, especially now Lutalo has got a bronze medal.
“I am just hoping it all changes, not just for taekwondo but for all sports. Selection needs to be based on results and objectivity – not just the opinions of some coaches or performance director.'’