Taekwondo: At last! Rivals get chance to settle Olympic scrap

Before London 2012, Aaron Cook and Lutalo Muhammad became embroiled in a bitter dispute which rocked Britain's preparations for the Games

It may not be quite in the same league as Froch v Groves but when Manchester hosts its second grudge fight in three weeks the set-to will be just as ferocious and personal.

It features a couple of combative 22-year-olds seeking to settle a score dating back to London 2012 when taekwondo rivals Aaron Cook and Lutalo Muhammad became embroiled in a bitter dispute which rocked Britain's Olympic preparations.

Muhammad was controversially selected ahead of the then world No 1 Cook for the British team. A year before, Cook had quit GB Taekwondo's coaching programme to train in his Dorset garage, believing he was best off preparing outside the establishment.

GB's performance director Gary Hall had insisted there was no "witch-hunt" against Cook because of this, but that Muhammad's fighting style was felt to be more "tactically beneficial".

The British Olympic Association initially declined to ratify Muhammad's nomination with Cook claiming he was being "cheated" out of a place at the Games but after a lengthy and expensive appeals process he lost his case.

The pair have not met or spoken since but are now scheduled to clash in the under-80kg division at next weekend's inaugural World Grand Prix, an event which brings together 250 top international competitors seeking qualification points for the Rio Olympics.

Muhammad represents Team GB while Cook will compete under the Manx flag, having binned his GB vest and switched his allegiance to the Isle of Man, who he will represent in next year's Commonwealth Games under their government rule allowing athletes eligibility if they relocate to the island to help develop sport in the community.

While Cook insists he bears no animosity towards Muhammad ("It wasn't his fault, it was those working against me behind the scenes") he still feels resentful. On the day of last year's Olympic final that he had spent years working towards, Cook was a few miles away from the Excel venue feeling heartily sick.

He recalls: "It should have been me in there fighting for that gold medal. I felt my dream had been stolen from me. I was absolutely in pieces, in tears and literally sick to the stomach. I had been cheated of my Olympic dream."

Both he and Muhammad are clean-cut, articulate spokesmen for "the way of the fist and the foot". The Walthamstow-born Muhammad, a European champion at under-87kg who went on to claim a surprise bronze in London, says of Cook: "He took things too far. I think his constant appeals were nasty and unnecessary." He was also the target of hate-mail. "A lot of the stuff that I received I don't want to even repeat, it was quite hurtful."

But he adds: "This sort of rivalry makes it dramatic and exciting for the fans. I'm quite enjoying it." And he is equally bullish about the outcome. "There's going to be fireworks, but I'm ready and confident. With everything that went on between me and Mr Cook there is definitely a score to settle.

"If it is half as good as Froch and Groves, which I watched, it should be a cracking contest. I just hope the ending won't be as controversial."

Unlike Froch and Groves, both enriched by seven-figure purses, neither will get a penny for their pains. "It's simply the satisfaction of proving who is the better man," says Cook. "We've both got a point to prove but there's only going to be one winner." Muhammad smiles: "We'll see. Let's bring it on."

Tickets for the World Taekwondo Grand Prix from 14-16 December are available at www.ticketmaster.co.uk/WTGP13

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Cleaner

£15000 - £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you've got first class custo...

Recruitment Genius: Mobile Applications Developer / Architect - iOS and Android

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity to join a medium s...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Account Executive - £40K OTE

£11830 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working in a friendly, sales ta...

Recruitment Genius: Web Designer

£15000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: One of the UK's leading web des...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life