World top-ranked taekwondo fighter Aaron Cook may turn his back on Britain and compete for another country at the 2016 Rio Olympics after a heartbreaking snub at his home Games.
“In three years I may be under a different flag,” Cook told the BBC. “My dream is to win an Olympic gold in Rio for Team GB, but it’s going to be extremely difficult for me to move forward after everything that’s happened.”
Cook was overlooked for London with the national body instead selecting Lutalo Muhammad in the welterweight under-80kg category. Muhammad went on to clinch bronze.
Cook, who unsuccessfully appealed the selection decision, seems unable to forgive or forget the snub and now France or the US are possible destinations for the 21-year-old, local media reported.
Cook trains outside the GB Taekwondo set-up and says it is for this reason he was overlooked for London 2012.
He left the national body’s training group last year following a disappointing world championships in South Korea and recruited his own coaching staff to better develop his attacking style.
“I’m world No. 1, I’m reigning European champion, I’ve beaten the guy who they selected in front of me [Muhammad] and the Olympic gold [Sebastian Eduardo Crismanich] and silver [Nicolas Garcia Hemme] medalists this year — I should have been at that Olympics,” he said.
“It was all personal, it was nothing about what I had won,” the British Open champion added. “If these people don’t resign or don’t get fired then that’s realistically [competing for another nation] where we’re at.”
Cook is hopeful of competing as an independent athlete at next year’s world championships in Mexico, but to compete at the Olympics he will need to represent a nation.
GB Taekwondo said in a statement the door was always open for Cook, but that it was a decision only the athlete could make.
“We are about to try to open discussions, but we don’t know what the reception will be,” sports Web site insidethegames.biz quoted GB Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall as saying.
“We’re pretty keen to work with Aaron. We’ll go into discussions with an open mind,” Hall said.
However, the fighter says he will never be able to forget the snub by the British governing body.
“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,” Cook said.