Aaron Cook: “It’s now or never”
One of the most popular and spectacular Taekwondo athletes in the world attends WTM before his participation in the biggest event of the year. European champion and bronze medallist at Muju 2017 and Chelyabinsk 2015 world championships, he’s still dreaming of the gold medal to finally arrive in Manchester 2019.
How do you feel? You’re about to compete in a World Taekwondo in Manchester…
I feel very good, very confident, I am in my home country, I’ve been training hard and I am looking forward to Saturday.
Would you say you are in your best possible shape?
Every competition I try to arrive in very good shape, but obviously the main focus this year has been the World Championship, I just hope I can control everything and put that to work on Saturday.
You are from Manchester, so I guess it is a very special occasion for you…
Of course! It’s fantastic to have such a big competition 10 minutes away from my house, with my family and friends coming to cheer. The atmosphere will be amazing, it will be great to fight here probably for the last time, it will be special for sure. It’s now or never.
Have you trained in a special way to prepare for the event?
Yes, this year I’ve tried to focus my preparation on training camps with some of the best athletes from the division such as Cheick Sallah Cisse (Ivory Coast) and Richard Ordemann (Norway) and I hope this will pay off.
You’ve won gold at the European Championships but at the World Championships you’ve never tasted glory although you have a bronze medal. Do you feel this is the perfect chance?
I dreamt about becoming world champion since I was a little boy, watching Steven Lopez winning gold in 2001, 2003… my goal was always to beat his record, but unfortunately the way Taekwondo has evolved, with constant changes, has made it difficult for me to achieve that, but I’d love to be world champion.
Is the controversy with GB Taekwondo already over or you still want to prove them wrong here at home?
For me it was over a a long time ago, after London 2012. My dream was to compete in the Olympics for Great Britain, it didn’t happen and I had to move on, what’s happened in the past it’s happened, you can’t change that. I had to do what was right for me and that is why I changed nationality to the Isle of Man and Moldova, so that I can compete in the Olympics.
At Muju 2017, there was a lot of controversy with the way Taekwondo was evolving and some stars such as Lopez and Tazegul were very worried about it. Do you think the situation is better now?
It’s definitely improving, there are a lot of more enjoyable matches. In the last world championships you could see everyone competing with the same style, but here the spinning kicks are coming back because it pays off in terms of points. It’s more spectator friendly, of course there is still work to do, but I think this is good for my game so hopefully I can win the gold medal.
Who do you think are your toughest rivals in the race for the gold?
In the Men’s -80 kg division many people are capable of winning the title. You have Khramtcov from Russia, gold medal at Muju 2017, Richard Ordemann from Norway, Cissé, the Olympic champion… so I’ll have to roll the dice and hopefully number six will come out for me.
What would you tell the young Taekwondo pratcitioners in order to inspire them continuing playing our sport?
I’d tell them it is an amazing sport to do, every match is different, everything is unique, I love the creativity of it, to do new kicks, create new styles, that’s what I love about it. I’ve seen a lot of young athletes here doing great so I think the future is bright, Taekwondo is in good hands.