[insidethegame]
Aaron Cook, taekwondo’s current under 80 kilogram world number one, has confirmed his intention to switch nationalities from Britain to Moldova, in order to ensure his qualification for next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

Cook was controversially overlooked by British Taekwondo in favour of Lutalo Muhammad for London 2012, despite being world number one then as well, with Muhammad ultimately winning bronze.

Cook claimed the decision, which prevented him from competing at his home Games, was taken following him opting out of the national training programme due a disagreement with coaches, a claim the British team deny.

The 24-year-old has not represented Britain since, instead competing for the Isle of Man, for whom he secured gold at the 2014 European Championships.

Cook has now confirmed that he received a Moldovan passport and is set to compete for the nation, posting on Facebook that it had been made clear “it would not be possible for me to be selected for Team GB, regardless of my world ranking or performances”.

With only one athlete selected per nation, Cook would have been at risk of being overlooked again for Rio 2016 by Britain, despite his current world ranking.

“Although I am upset and disappointed I will not represent my country of birth at another major championships, I felt I had no other option,” Cook added.

“I am a fighter at heart and I am not going to throw away 20 years of dedication because of bureaucracy.”

The athlete outlined his ambition to compete for Moldova at the inaugural European Games in Azerbaijan’s capital Baku, which begin June 12, before turning his attentions to qualifying for the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Cook wrote to the British Olympic Association (BOA) in February seeking their approval to change nationalities and the National Olympic Committee could still attempt to block Cook’s move.

The BOA told insidethegames at the time that they are “aware of the situation and nationality change request regarding Aaron Cook’s future Olympic Games participation.

“The BOA will be liaising with all parties to carefully consider the request.”

If the switch is approved, Cook is likely become the Moldova’s best chance of winning a first Olympic gold medal, having only won two silver medals and seven bronze in their history.

The Olympic Charter allows athletes to switch nationalities after they have served a period of three years since representing their previous nation, with Cook’s last appearance for Britain coming in May 2012.

His proposed switch to Moldova is being supported by President Republic of Moldova Taekwondo Federation, Igor Iuzefovici.

Contact the writer of this story at michael.pavitt@insidethegames.biz