Cook retains European taekwondo crown with dramatic final-second victory over world number one
Sunday, 06 May 2012
May 6 - Aaron Cook, Great Britain's Olympic hopeful, sank to his knees after dramatically defending his title in the -80 kilogrammes class at the European Taekwondo Championships in Manchester – following the disqualification of world number one Ramin Azizov in the last second of the final round for running off the mat.
It was a maiden victory over his Azerbaijani arch-rival for Cook (pictured top) who had trailed throughout most of a dramatic final, and was 11-9 down with three seconds remaining.
But the Dorchester-born world number-three held his nerve to delight a capacity 1,100 crowd at the Regional Arena and earn a "gam-jeom" decision against Azizov from the referee.
Droylsden's Michael Harvey (pictured below, in red) took a more conventional route to a gold medal as he claimed his first European title in the -63kg category with a 14-2 win over Greek Vasileios Gaitanis, the referee stopping the contest in the final round.
Cook now seems set to gain Britain's Olympic nomination at -80kg after a year of almost unbridled success.
But Harvey faces an anxious wait as his success came in a non-Olympic weight class for Britain.
"I was so fortunate to get him out of the ring right at the end," said 21-year-old Cook, who was close to tears on the podium.
"Some people might have said I had lost it – but I knew I won that match.
"I have had so many decisions go against me in the past and finally one has gone my way.
"I have lost three times to him so to beat him is so sweet."
He added: "Hopefully, that can be the final at the Olympics, and hopefully I can get the same result.
"The selectors have got to make a tough decision.
"But I feel like I have done enough and who knows what I can do in London?"
Harvey (picured) tadded a European gold to last year's World Championship silver in South Korea.
"I just didn't want to come second again," said the 22-year-old.
"So, I gave everything in the final to come out with gold."
Harvey, who represented Britain at the Beijing 2008 Olympics, continued: "This was the last competition before the Olympics – all I can do now is hope.
"I have put some pressure on Martin [Stamper] – he is a good friend and I will still be happy for him if he becomes European champion."
Britain, which had earned five medals including three golds, sat second in the medals table to France at the end of the penultimate day of the Championships.
Floriane Liborio of France earned the -57kg gold medal with a 7-4 win over Edina Kotsis of Hungary, and the women's -73kg title went to Anastasia Baryshnikova of Russia who beat Serbia's Milica Mandic 4-3.
March 2012: Cook and Gayle warm up for European Taekwondo Championships with golds at Dutch Open
February 2012: GB taekwondo hopefuls launch tickets for European Championships
June 2011: Three departures confirmed from Taekwondo World Class Performance programme
May 2011: BOA and GB Taekwondo announce weight categories for British 2012 competitors
May 2011: Harvey silver lining gives Britain fourth World Championship medal