Gareth Bale

Great Britain’s Olympic soccer manager criticizes Gareth Bale for skipping London 2012

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Stuart Pearce, who managed the Great Britain soccer team to a quarterfinal exit at the London Olympics, recently singled out Welsh star Gareth Bale for pulling out Olympic consideration the night before the team was named last year.

Bale, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder, transferred from England’s Tottenham Hotspur to Spain’s Real Madrid for a fee reported to be upwards of $100 million two weeks ago.

Pearce’s comments to Sky Sports were published in several British outlets, including the Guardian:

“I don’t want to speak out of school and speak out of confidences, but we had a situation with Gareth Bale. We were going into the Olympic Games, I’ve spoken to him seven months prior about going to the Games, I’m going to put the squad out on the Friday morning – on Thursday he rings me and says his back’s not so good, he’s going to have to pull out of the squad.

“He plays his first game for Tottenham pre-season the same day as we play our first Olympic game. We’ve got the brightest talent in Britain at the time didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games. And he wasn’t alone, by the way. There [were] a couple of others as well, because of the media hype that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics.

“Now you ask the 23 players who went to the Olympics – you ask [Craig] Bellamy [Ryan] Giggs, ask players of that ilk what they felt about the Olympic experience and they’ll say arguably it could have been the best experience of their life on a football pitch.”

Britain was bounced from the quarterfinals by South Korea in its first appearance in the Olympic soccer tournament since 1960.

Perhaps Bale could have helped Team GB. He scored 21 Premier League goals for Spurs last season and won the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said last year that Bale merely made a faster-than-expected recovery to be able to play for Tottenham while the Olympics were going on.

2012 Olympic champion’s bow-and-arrow first pitch

Jan Hudec, Olympic bronze medalist skier, switches from Canada to Czech Republic

Jan Hudec
Getty Images
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Co-Olympic super-G bronze medalist Jan Hudec was granted a request by Alpine Canada to represent the Czech Republic next season after being left off Canada’s national team.

Hudec, 34, wasn’t eligible for Canada’s national team after racing once in 2015-16 due to the latest of his many knee surgeries, according to Alpine Canada.

“It is important to know that we continued to work with Jan after the team selection was announced, and let him know that we were more then willing to find accommodation that would enable him to return to the team,” Alpine Canada said in a press release. “However, at this stage of Jan’s career, he is making a decision that can best meet his desire to fulfill and lead a different way of life, that reaches beyond ski racing.”

The International Ski Federation must still grant Hudec’s request. Hudec was born in the Czech Republic.

At the Sochi Olympics, Hudec shared bronze with Bode Miller in the super-G. He is also the 2007 World Championships downhill silver medalist and a two-time winner of World Cup races.

The 2016-17 Alpine skiing World Cup season is expected to begin in Soelden, Austria, in late October.

MORE: Bode Miller says ‘good likelihood’ of comeback

Triplets set for Olympic history in Rio (video)

Luik sisters
NBC News
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Estonian sisters Leila, Liina and Lily Luik are set to become what is believed to be the first set of triplets to compete in an Olympics, according to Games historians.

The Luiks, identical triplets born Oct. 14, 1985, remain the only Estonian women to meet the Olympic qualifying time for the marathon. And since a nation can send three qualified athletes to the Olympic marathon, all three are in line to go to Rio.

The Estonia athletics federation’s qualifying cutoff is Wednesday. It doesn’t believe any other Estonians will register an Olympic qualifying time by then.

With most marathons taking place on weekends, it appears the Luiks are safe, even though none has run faster than 2:37, and the Olympic medal winners will likely be running in the low-to-mid 2:20s.

MORE: Ethiopian legend not on Olympic marathon team