I let Moldova fans down – Cook

Published: Thursday 18th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Aaron Cook insisted he has no regrets about switching allegiance to Moldova after crashing out in the quarter-finals of the men’s -80kg taekwondo competition at the European Games in Baku on Thursday.

The world number two had been expected to set up a grudge match with former Great Britain team-mate Lutalo Muhammad, who had been controversially selected ahead of Cook for the London 2012 Olympics, prompting him to quit the GB programme.

But, despite much pre-tournament hype, Cook was beaten on a golden point by Portugal’s Julio Ferreira, while Muhammad also failed to keep his side of the bargain, losing in the last eight before rallying to claim a bronze medal after coming through the repechage.

For Cook, it was a second consecutive agonising loss after a sudden-death defeat to Britain’s Damon Sansum at the World Championships in Chelyabinsk last month – and he vowed to spend more time in the ex-Soviet republic in a bid to turn his fortunes around.

Cook said: “It’s only my second competition for Moldova and their support has been amazing. They are always cheering me on and I feel like I have let them down today.

“I’ve had a tough couple of losses now – two golden points back to back in the space of a month – so it’s very hard to take mentally. I’ll have a little holiday, regroup and come back and hopefully secure my place for Rio.”

Cook’s switch to Moldova, which was bankrolled by the billionaire president of the country’s taekwondo federation, means he is virtually certain to qualify for Rio next year, where he will bid to ease the pain of his London snub.

And he is convinced he would not have had the chance to go to a Games had he remained within the Great Britain programme, with both Muhammad and Sansum also battling for the prized -80kg Olympic berth.

Cook added: “I did everything possible to qualify for London – I was world number one and I won all the tournaments and fulfilled the criteria and it wasn’t good enough then, so why would it have been good enough for Rio?

“I wasn’t going to put myself or my family through that again and that’s why we made the decision to go to Moldova. I would love to be the first person to win an Olympic gold medal for them.”

Muhammad, who has only recently returned from knee surgery, was emotional after his powerful 12-7 win over Roberto Botta in the bronze medal match, and said he hoped he could rekindle his rivalry with Cook at the Rio Olympics.

“Both of us in shape and fully prepared are two of the best fighters in the world,” Muhammad said. “In spite of any history we’ve had and even if we don’t always see eye to eye on a personal level, I have respect for him as a competitor and nothing will ever change that.”

Earlier in Baku on Thursday, Birtley boxer Luke McCormack clambered off his sick-bed to book his first win in the men’s lightweight competition.

McCormack revealed he had spent his first two days in Azerbaijan laid up with a stomach bug before recovering enough to see off Panagiotis Matsagkos of Greece by unanimous decision.

“I’ve been in bed for two days with sickness and diarrhoea – it was the worst ever,” McCormack said. ” In my next fight I’ll be 100 times better than that.”

Ireland’s Sean McComb also progressed to the last 16 with a unanimous points win over Tymur Beliak of Ukraine.

Great Britain won two medals in the junior diving competition, with 15-year-old Lois Toulson winning gold in the women’s platform competition, and James Heatley earning bronze in the men’s 1m springboard.

Published: Thursday 18th June 2015 by The News Editor

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