Updated: Thursday, 24th May 2018 @ 4:19pm

Cook happy to go it alone in Olympic taekwondo quest

Cook happy to go it alone in Olympic taekwondo quest

By Steven Oldham, Sports Correspondent

AARON Cook claimed his victory over fellow British fighter Craig Brown was a must-win encounter for his Olympic ambitions at the taekwondo British Open in Manchester.

British Taekwondo have made the men's welterweight classification one of their four host nation places at next summer's Games.

But European champion Cook is no longer part of the official team set-up, deciding to go it alone with his own coaches and support network.

“I am happy to be back where I want to be.  Hopefully I can step it up and it will be enough,” he said.

 “This is the fourth tournament I’ve won since I left the national team.  I’ve got world-class sparring partners and I can relax in the ring more now.

“It’s made me train harder, two or three times a day. We have got to keep pushing. To win at the Olympics is my dream.”

Cook now heads to Mexico for a training camp ahead of the French Open in November – the next tournament in the selection battle, with Andy Deer and Damon Samsun other contenders, albeit outsiders.

After beating Brown, Cook shouted 'help him' – a reference to his beaten opponent – who has also been dropped by the national programme.

“I feel sorry for him sometimes – he’s without funding too.  He’s a great fighter and I am sure he will do well," he added.

Brown – a veteran of the 2004 Athens Games – acknowledged a lack of funding but was keen to talk up the athletes competing outside of the national programme.

“It was hard to lose the funding but it was a blessing in disguise. There’s still more to come from me.”

“I run a club in Peckham where I come from.  That club is all I have in terms of funding.  I do it go get kids off the streets. It’s a tough place to grow up.”

“Both fighters in this final receive no funding.  Imagine what we could do with some backing?”

Elsewhere, there were three gold medals for British fighters - with taekwondo shaping up to be possibly one of Britain's leading medal sports next summer.

World silver medallist Jade Jones beat world number five, France's Marlene Harnois, to win the featherweight title and Bianca Walkden and Martin Stamper, who won world bronze earlier this year, were also victorious.

Walkden's normal middleweight division was not nominated for next summer's Games by British Taekwondo, meaning she is dropping down to welterweight to challenge world champion Sarah Stevenson, absent from Manchester, for London 2012 selection.

Stamper beat former British Open champion Francois Sarr and last year's European junior champion Amine Manai and was awarded gold after final opponent, Jordan's Mohammad Abulibdeh, withdrew shortly before the fight due to injury.

Featherweight Stamper's win will further enhance his selection credentials, with Michael Harvey, who shed pounds to compete in the bantamweight class in at the World Championships, where he won silver, his biggest rival.