Cook has no regrets leaving training programme
TAEKWONDO player Aaron Cook admits he has no regrets about leaving the British Taekwondo World Class Performance Programme and has won four tournaments since narrowly missing out on a medal at the World Championships.
Cook took the decision, that he claims to have been contemplating for years, in June and now does his own training and pursues his own regime.
The 20-year-old from Dorset acknowledged he has taken a big gamble but said he wanted to be in control of his own destiny.
“It was a massive decision to move away with only a year to go until the Olympics - a lot of people thought we were crazy,” said the 80kg European champion.
“But this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, having the Olympic Games in your own country.
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“We just wanted to take full control of my dream - plan out what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, who I wanted to train with and what competitions to do, instead of being told what to do and just maybe seeing what happened at the Olympics.
“I want to know I have done 100 per cent so that when I come to that day, I can give everything.”
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Cook begins a training camp in Mexico this week ahead of the French Open in November and is determined to make the most of having his own schedule and dedicated team.
He said: “I’m trying to travel the world and get as much competition experience as I can.
“I’ve got my own strength and conditioning coach now, who works closely with me - he used to work with Manchester United and has some fantastic equipment that has definitely improved me in ways I never thought were possible.
“Every time I train, it is 100 per cent for me now instead of being in a group situation of 11 or 12 people and I am really seeing the benefits.
“As you can see, I’m starting to win a lot of competitions, so it is obviously working for me.”
Cook no longer receives central funding and is reliant on sponsors and is keen to highlight the plight of other GB fighters operating outside the elite programme, such as Craig Brown, who he defeated in the British Open final.
“We took a massive funding loss,” Cook said.
“I’m lucky to have a few fantastic sponsors to help me to go to these places and still train, but unfortunately there are people like Craig on the outside of the national academy who haven’t really got those sponsors.
“It is quite difficult for them and I felt really sorry for him.
“There were four guys in the national academy getting funding and help who were at that competition and didn’t do anything, and we were in the final, so it just shows they are putting the money into the wrong people, which is a shame really.”
Despite what has happened, Cook insists there is no ill-feeling between him and Team GB.
“We all still get on and I have a lot of friends up there who were training partners,” Cook said.
“The staff all came over and said good luck (at the British Open), and hopefully we will work together before the Olympics if I get selected.
“There wasn’t any bad vibes or anything - they all said congratulations at the end.”