BOA seeks explanation for snub of taekwondo star

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The British Olympic Association is asking national taekwondo officials to explain their decision to omit top-ranked fighter Aaron Cook from the Olympic team.

Cook filed an appeal Monday with the BOA, describing the decision to leave him off the team as ''incredible'' and ''ironic.'' He is ranked No.1 in the world in the 80-kilogram (173-pound) division and has won more major competitions than any other British athlete in his weight category.

But he has also irked taekwondo officials by abandoning the national British training academy last year. Since going solo, the 21-year-old Cook has won a string of major tournaments, including the European championship title in his weight class earlier this month.

A four-person BOA panel heard the case Tuesday and asked for a meeting as soon as possible with the British taekwondo body to ''seek further information and clarification'' on the selection process.

The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, with a decision coming that day or soon after.

Cook described the move as ''encouraging.'' ''Thank you to the BOA,'' he said on Twitter. ''The dream is still alive.''

The BOA panel also asked for more information on the head-kick scoring system in taekwondo and how that affected selection. Taekwondo awards the most points for spinning head kicks - a style Cook is particularly known for.

The BOA also said it would seek information from the World Taekwondo Federation, the martial art's governing body.

In a statement on Monday, Cook complained he had been unfairly left off the team, even after receiving support from Gary Hall, the British team's performance director.

Instead of Cook, British taekwondo authorities picked Lutalo Muhammad, a 20-year-old fighter who is ranked 10th. Muhammad recently won his only major title at the European championships in May but that was in a heavier weight division.

Several prominent British Olympians have waded into the controversy, including five-time rowing gold medalist Steve Redgrave. He described Cook as ''the only choice'' for the taekwondo team and said Muhammad was ''unproven'' in the 80-kilogram division.

Matthew Pinsent, a four-time British gold medalist in rowing, said on Twitter that Cook had fallen victim to ''small-time sport politics.''

The BOA panel also decided to grant Britain only one wrestling spot at the London Olympics, after dropping two of its host-nation places.

The BOA said the performance of British Wrestling in the run-up to the games failed to live up to the standards it had proposed in 2011. As a result, wrestling had its quota of automatic berths reduced from three to one.

Britain's only qualification place will come in the women's under-55kg category, with Ukraine-born Olga Butkevych taking the spot.

The BOA panel also said ''more work needs to be done in order to ensure a meaningful post-games legacy for wrestling.''

British Wrestling recruited eastern European athletes - described as ''Plastic Brits'' by some British media - to improve the team's chances in London, sparking outrage among home-grown wrestlers.

Tagged: Aaron Cook

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