DORCHESTER’S Aaron Cook has certainly come a long way since practising flying kicks off the sofa while watching Power Rangers on TV, and the British taekwondo fighter feels it is his “destiny” to land an Olympic medal in London.
The 21-year-old will defend his European title in Manchester next weekend aiming to keep himself in pole position to secure the under-80kgs place on the Olympic squad.
Cook – who last year took the somewhat controversial decision to train outside the GB elite performance programme at the Manchester Taekwondo Academy – won the LOCOG Test event at ExCeL and has a return to the top of the podium again firmly in his sights.
Cook said: “I am very motivated. What more do you need than the Olympic Games in London? It is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, I have my coaching team around me and we know exactly what we need to work on.
“I have not had much down-time at the moment, it has been all guns blazing with training seven days a week, but it will all be worth it.
“I am in really good shape at the moment and can’t wait for the Euros. I am putting in the hours and work every day, I know it will pay off.
“This is my destiny I feel, everything is leading up to August 10. I need to go up there and take it.”
The former Thomas Hardye School pupil was introduced to taekwondo aged just five, and by 17, he was world junior champion in 2008.
As soon as London won the right to host the 2012 Games, there was only going to ever be one target.
“When I was five, I used to watch all of the Power Rangers TV shows, practise all of the moves on my brother, flying off the sofa,” recalled Cook, who narrowly missed out on an Olympic bronze medal at the Beijing Games, losing to home fighter Zhu Guo in a somewhat controversial contest.
“My parents thought taekwondo would be a good idea and there was a local club which had just started up.
“The guy said five was a bit young to be starting a Martial Art, but to come along and see if my attention span was good – I just loved it, and he said I could stay on, so it all started from there really.
“Then I remember when London was announced as the hosts for 2012, I was in a PE lesson at the time and ever since the teacher told me, I thought ‘this is my chance’. It has been seven years of dedication, work and sacrifice, from my parents too who have given up so much to try to help me achieve this dream.”
While the 21-year-old is not taking a place on the Olympic squad for granted, Cook is determined to leave the selectors with no choice.
He said: “There are four really good athletes in this weight division, and there is only one Olympic spot, everyone wants to go and has been training really hard.
“I managed to get selected for the Europeans, and hopefully I can go to Manchester and retain my title, which would then hopefully put me on the Olympic team.”