Published June 29, 2012
| Associated Press
LONDON – Top-ranked taekwondo star Aaron Cook ended his fight for a place on Britain's Olympic team on Friday and said he is "devastated" he won't be competing at the London Games.
Cook is the reigning European champion in the 80-kilogram category. Britain's Taekwondo Federation picked the 104-ranked Lutalo Muhammad in his place, setting off a campaign of bitter complaints from Cook, his supporters and his agent, who had said the athlete will fight for an Olympic spot in courts.
The British Olympic Association said last week that Cook's case was not suited for the Court of Arbitration for Sport. The world taekwondo champion could turn to Britain's High Court, but Cook said in a statement that a legal battle would be too expensive.
Although the World Taekwondo Federation is conducting its own review into Britain's omission of Cook, its conclusions will not be published in time to enable Cook to fight at the Olympics that start July 27.
Cook has fought in several international champions this year, beating 10 of the 15 fighters who will be competing at the London Games. Muhammad has beaten one. He also won a European title, but in a heavier weight division.
"I don't think that I could have done any more in terms of my performance," Cook said. "I will sit down with my team and consider my best way forward in the coming months."
Taekwondo officials said Muhammad's height -- he is slightly taller than Cook -- made him better suited to land head kicks, which win the most points in taekwondo.
Cook is known for his aggressive attacking style using several head kicks in quick succession.
Cook has claimed British officials sidelined him to punish him for ditching the national training program last year after disagreements over coaching strategies. He said the Olympics would have been "the pinnacle" of his career.
Britain's taekwondo officials offered Cook to train as Muhammad's alternative on the Olympic team, but he refused.
"Clearly, it would be hugely difficult for me to work with their coaches in view of what has happened," Cook said.
Since leaving the national taekwondo academy, Cook has mostly trained in a gym his parents built in the backyard of their Manchester home. He has won more competitions than any fighter, training in his division at the British taekwondo academy, and is ranked world No. 1.