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UK decides again to snub taekwondo star Cook

Britain OLY TAE Cook _Pata.jpg

May 5, 2012: This file photo shows Britain's taekwondo athlete Aaron Cook having his scoring vest adjusted during the European Taekwondo Championships, at the Manchester Regional Arena, Manchester, England. (AP2012)

British taekwondo officials have again refused to nominate No. 1-ranked Aaron Cook for their Olympic team despite being ordered to reconsider him by the British Olympic Association last week.

The BOA said Wednesday it had received another nomination for Cook's disputed category -- and that there had been no change since taekwondo officials last made their choice. Instead of Cook, the British taekwondo federation picked Lutalo Muhammad, ranked 104th.

On Wednesday morning, Britain's taekwondo selection panel reconvened, with the addition of an independent observer from the BOA and Cook's coach, United States-based Patrice Remarck.

Last week, the BOA said it "could not ratify" the nomination of Muhammad and demanded the taekwondo selection panel meet again.

Cook is the top-ranked fighter in his division. He fell out with taekwondo officials after abandoning the national training program last year.

Cook hired his own coaches, had a gym built in the backyard of his Manchester home and most recently won the European championships as part of the British team. He also represented Britain and won gold at the test event for the Olympics in December.

Cook's agent said he wrote a letter to the British sports minister on Tuesday, detailing his concerns about the selection process for his 80-kilogram division. In the statement, Jamie Cunningham also said Cook and his coach had less than 24 hours to prepare for the taekwondo selection panel.

Cunningham said Cook had defeated nearly half of the 15 fighters who will be competing at the London Games while Muhammad had not beaten any.

"Aaron is ranked No. 1 in the world and Olympic rankings because he is the best taekwondo athlete at his weight class in the world," Cunningham said. "These are all facts, not opinion."

Officials at Great Britain Taekwondo said there were "difficult decisions" needed for the Olympic nomination. The federation had argued Muhammad -- who has been with the national training program for less than a year -- was slightly taller than Cook, and thus had a better chance of landing head kicks, worth the most points in taekwondo scoring.

Cook's style is characterized by a very aggressive focus on repeated spinning hook kicks to the head, which often catches his opponents off-guard.

Great Britain Taekwondo officials said in a statement they were committed to building a world-class training structure for British athletes "which in turn gives them the best chance of medalling at London 2012 and future championships."

Last week, performance director Gary Hall said Cook's departure from the program had nothing to do with his omission from the Olympic team.

The refusal to name Cook sparked outrage among British Olympians. Some described the snub as a political decision.

The BOA must ratify any nominations for the Olympic team and will meet Thursday to discuss the latest decision to sideline Cook.