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Page last updated at 17:00 GMT, Wednesday, 16 February 2011

GB's Aaron Cook wants to be the 'greatest of all time'


Taekwondo world number one Aaron Cook on his struggles and successes

By Nick Hope
BBC Olympic Sports Reporter

World number one Aaron Cook has set his sights on claiming multiple Olympic gold medals, starting in London 2012.

The 20-year-old from Dorset, narrowly missed out on bronze in Beijing.

"The next 18 months are the most important of my life as it's my only chance to win at a home Olympics, but I don't want to stop there," said Cook.

"Winning a home Olympics would tick all of the boxes and at 21 years of age I will then hopefully go on to be one of the greatest of all time."

Cook is part of a 10-strong British team in Austin, Texas, for the US Open, starting on Thursday.

I want to win many Olympic gold medals and become one of the greatest of all time

Aaron Cook

The Manchester-based fighter won the event last year and the ranking points Cook claimed moved him into his current position of world number one.

"It does carry a little added pressure because everyone expects that little bit more from you and in many ways I expect more from myself now," Cook told BBC Sport.

"It can be quite embarrassing if you lose, but you can't focus on that and just have to try and win every match that you're involved in.

In December, GB Taekwondo received £400,000 worth of additional funding from UK Sport to support its campaign leading up to the London Olympics.

Part of that has been used to finance the GB team's trip to the United States.

"The funding has been a real boost to everyone, because more competitions means more experience," said Cook.

"The US Open is really important to me this year because winning would give me the points I need to secure a good ranking at the World Championships, which are my main focus for 2011."

Cook capitalises on controversial win

Great Britain have four guaranteed host-nation births for taekwondo at the London Olympics, two for male and two for female fighters.

Results at the World Championships in Gyeongju, Korea, from 1-6 May, could be key to deciding who makes the cut for the 2012 Games.

"We have to notify the World Taekwondo Federation which weight categories we're nominating (for the Olympics) by the end of May this year," said GB Taekwondo performance director Gary Hall.

"We can only name four fighters in the squad so there will be some tough decisions ahead, but it would be very difficult to ignore anyone who wins a World Championship medal.

Success in Korea, the home of taekwondo, would complete a remarkable few years for Cook who at 17 was controversially denied a medal in the play-off for -80kg bronze at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when he faced home-favourite China's Zhu Guo.

The Brit made his mark on the global stage the following year, defeating world and Olympic champion Steve Lopez in a World Tour event in Mexico.

Further success followed in 2010 when he became British and European Champion.

"I've had a great run of results, but now I really want to add a world title to my collection," he said.

"London (2012) is of course on my mind, but I have to just focus on the next fight and try to win. That's what will get me the points and the titles over the next 18 months."

Cook confesses that without the support of his parents none of his achievements would have been possible.

Meet GB Taekwondo star Aaron Cook

He left home aged just 15 to join the GB Taekwondo team, which was then based in Loughborough. Following the team's move to Manchester in 2007, Cook was joined by the rest of his family who have continued to back his career.

"They've been amazing, driving me up and down the country to competitions since I was five and even travelling out to events with me abroad," said Cook.

"There has been a lot of sacrifice, at times they've been working two or three jobs just to help fund me, but it's all helped to get me this far and hopefully it'll get me on top of the podium in London."

And Cook sees staying at the top of his sport and claiming further honours as the perfect way to say thank you.

In the here and now, the US Open is the focus for Cook but the Great Britain squad is missing two strong medal prospects.

Bianca Walkden, the 2010 World Combat Games champion from Liverpool, has been ruled out with a knee injury, whilst Beijing bronze medal winner Sarah Stevenson the women's -67kg world number two, has withdrawn for personal reasons.

The team does however include 2010 Youth Olympic gold medallist Jade Jones from Wales, who will be making her World Championship debut as a senior.

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see also
Six 2012 sports handed cash boost
09 Dec 10 |  London 2012
Cook capitalises on controversial win
27 Sep 10 |  Taekwondo
GB taekwondo pair lead rankings
09 Jun 10 |  Taekwondo
Stevenson and Cook win Euro golds
15 May 10 |  Taekwondo
What makes a top taekwondo player?
29 May 07 |  Taekwondo
Sarah Stevenson's guide to taekwondo
11 Apr 08 |  Taekwondo

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