Aaron Cook, the world’s top-ranked 80kg taekwondo fighter, has switched nationalities from Great Britain to Moldova.
“Despite the fact that there is no legitimate case for nationality change here, the [British Olympic Association] cannot compel any athlete to represent the United Kingdom against his or her will,” British Olympic Association CEO Bill Sweeney said in a press release. “As such, and as Aaron has now reiterated that he wishes to represent Moldova, rather than the country of his birth, at future taekwondo competitions, the BOA will not stand in his way.
“We are saddened by Aaron’s decision to make himself unavailable for selection for Team GB and to instead compete for Moldova, but we wish him all the best for the future.”
Cook, 24, was left off the Great Britain Olympic team for London 2012 despite being world No. 1 at the time in his weight class. He was training outside the British national team program at the time.
He lost in the round of 32 at the last World Championships in 2013 while representing the Isle of Man, which is part of Great Britain for Olympic representation purposes. This year’s World Championships are in Chelyabinsk, Russia, in May.
Cook lost a bronze-medal match at the Beijing 2008 Olympics at age 17.
Moldova has competed at the Olympics since 1994 and won seven medals — no gold — and none in taekwondo, according to sports-reference.com.