Aaron Cook to compete for Moldova at Rio 2016 Olympics
Aaron Cook yesterday confirmed he has taken up Moldovan citizenship and has the intention to represent the ex Soviet Union country at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
Cook, born in Dorset, UK, 24 years ago, has no links to the country but had his nationality approved via funding from Moldovan billionaire Igor Luzefovici.
Cook, who was ruled out of the GB Taekwondo team for London 2012 declared: “I had no other option”.
Despite the official statement released by the Men’s -80 kg World number 1, the British Olympic Association (BOA) could still block his move.
In his statement, Cook added: “I will soon begin a new journey representing the Republic of Moldova at all international competitions and hopefully the Rio Olympic games and beyond, should I qualify. 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.”
The Moldovan Billionaire Luzefovici is also the President of the country’s Taekwondo Federation.
Cook, who fought for Great Britain at Beijing 2008, felt he was overlooked for the 2012 squad because he decided to quit the British programme in 2011, something GB Taekwondo has always denied.
Lutalo Muhammad, who was selected instead of Cook, ended up winning a bronze medal at the Olympics.
Cook refused to compete under the British in May 2012 and has since 2013 fought for Isle of Man.
Under the Olympic charter, an athlete can switch nationalities after they have served three years since representing their previous country. This means Cook would be eligible to compete for another nation at this year’s inaugural Baku European Games, scheduled for next June.
The list of qualifying athletes for the games is due to be revealed this week and as the event is run by the European Olympic Committee, Cook would have to compete for Great Britain or Moldova.
In case he competes for Moldova, he would be officially unable to switch back to Great Britain for Rio 2016.
However, the BOA, who do not want to lose a potential Olympic medal-winning athlete, is understood to be investigating whether having competed for Isle of Man, a British crown dependency, would make blocking the move possible.
Meetings between Cook’s representatives, GB Taekwondo executives and the BOA over the last 12 months have not managed to resolve problems between the parties.
Cook claims to have been told he would not be selected for the British Rio Olympic team, regardless of his performances, last year – something GB Taekwondo firmly denies.
“We have received a nationality change request from Aaron Cook regarding his future Olympic Games participation,” said a BOA spokesperson. “The BOA is liaising with all parties to carefully consider this.”
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