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Cook gives up on Olympic fight

Taekwondo star won’t challenge controversial omission from Team GB

Gulf News

London: Taekwondo world number one Aaron Cook gave up on his dream of competing at the 2012 Olympics on Friday after announcing he wouldn’t challenge his controversial omission from the Team GB squad in London’s High Court.

Despite retaining his European title earlier this summer, Cook was overlooked by GB Taekwondo for the under-80 kilograms place at the Games in favour of the lower-ranked Lutalo Mohammad.

Ever since he has tried to overturn the decision, but last week he suffered a huge setback when the British Olympic Association (BOA) ruled there was not sufficient new evidence for GB Taekwondo to be forced to reopen their selection process and also did not allow Cook to take his case to the Swiss-based Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

Cook, self-funded since leaving the British taekwondo academy programme last year — a decision he believes has been held against him by the selectors — was faced with the prospect of a costly legal challenge as his only way of getting back into London 2012 contention.

BOA chiefs expressed their unhappiness with aspects of British Taekwondo’s selection process but, ultimately, didn’t overturn the original selection.

Separate probe

And although the World Taekwondo Federation (WTF) have launched their own investigation, its results won’t be known until after the Games.

“After careful consideration over the last few weeks, and despite my representatives advising me that I still had a good chance of successfully overturning the BOA’s ratification of Great Britain Taekwondo’s decision not to select me for London 2012, I have decided not to take my case against the BOA to the High Court,” Cook said in a statement.

“The financial implications for me, and, more importantly, for my parents, of doing so are too prohibitive.”
‘Really disappointed’
“I am really disappointed that the BOA did not agree to my case being heard at the Court of Arbitration for Sport. It is the specialist forum for sports-related matters.”

As for the WTF inquiry, Cook added: “I welcome this investigation, but I am hugely disappointed that the WTF have now indicated that they will not finalise the review and findings in time for London 2012.

“This is particularly disappointing as the BOA had reserved the right to reconsider its decision to ratify Great Britain Taekwondo’s nomination in light of the WTF’s findings.

“I do hope that the WTF will consider after the Games a new automatic selection criteria for the top 10 athletes in the world rankings in each weight category for future Olympics and World Championships.

“I also hope that UK Sport and the BOA act to resolve the long-term issues that have been revealed by my case.”

Reserve place

Cook confirmed it would have been “hugely difficult” to take up the reserve place for Team GB and wished the rest of the squad the “very best of luck” for the Games.

He added: “The Olympics, and especially a home Olympics, would have been the pinnacle of my career. I feel totally devastated.”

The BOA released a statement in response, hailing Cook as a “champion” for his message of support.

The statement added: “Aaron has our commitment that the BOA will continue to work with our Athletes’ Commission, the national governing bodies and other sport stakeholders to make certain selection procedures across all Olympic sports are fully understood by everyone involved, are applied fairly and consistently, and have the best interests of athletes and their sport at heart.”