David Beckham’s omission from London Olympic team: ‘I desperately wanted him on the squad,’ coach says

David Beckham Olympics
Getty Images
0 Comments

Stuart Pearce, the 2012 Great Britain Olympic men’s soccer coach, believes that his decision to leave David Beckham off the team led to discussions at the Prime Minister’s office about whether Pearce should have been fired.

Pearce, speaking on Talksport radio earlier this month, said he was under pressure “like you would never know” to pick Beckham for the first British Olympic soccer team since 1960.

“It’s been the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” said Pearce, a former Premier League and England national team player.

Pearce had three over-age spots for players born before Jan. 1, 1989, like the then-37-year-old Beckham. He went with Ryan GiggsCraig Bellamy and Micah Richards. He said on Talksport that Beckham’s age was not the reason he was left off (Giggs was 38).

“I wanted David in the squad. I wanted him to play well enough to set an example for the rest of the players in that squad with the way he carries himself, everything that he’d done to bring the Olympic Games to this country,” Pearce said. “I was desperate for David to be in that squad, but I also, being the football man in me, I wanted it to be a fair playing field for every player, so it was only ever going to be in my mind picked on ability.

“I was backed into a corner in many ways and couldn’t pick him purely because I knew I’d water the squad down if I did.”

Beckham’s last match for England was in 2009. He moved from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and helped the club win the 2011 MLS Cup.

Pearce went on to say that he believed there were conversations “behind my back” between Beckham’s agent and the English Football Association about him being captain of the Olympic team. Obviously, those would have been before Pearce’s surprising decision a month before the Games.

“And I even believe, from what I can gather, that once a decision was made by myself that he wasn’t going to be in the squad, it was even mentioned at Downing Street whether it was the right decision or not, whether they should replace me as the manager,” Pearce said, “which I quite understand, you know.”

Back in 2012, Beckham handled the news with a statement.

“Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me, so I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad,” it read. “Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.”

Beckham played a role in helping London land the Games. He traveled to Singapore with the bid delegation in 2005 for the IOC members vote. He authored one of the most memorable scenes of the Opening Ceremony, driving the Olympic Flame down the River Thames on a motor boat.

Great Britain did not have an Olympic soccer team in 2016, but a women’s team is part of the Tokyo field.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!

MORE: FIFA ruling on Olympic age eligibility affects Brazilian star

Elena Fanchini, medal-winning Alpine skier, dies at 37

Elena Fanchini
Getty
0 Comments

Elena Fanchini, an Italian Alpine skier whose career was cut short by a tumor, has died. She was 37.

Fanchini, the 2005 World downhill silver medalist at age 19, passed away Wednesday at her home in Solato, near Brescia, the Italian Winter Sports Federation announced.

Fanchini died on the same day that fellow Italian Marta Bassino won the super-G at the world championships in Meribel, France; and two days after Federica Brignone — another former teammate — claimed gold in the combined.

Sofia Goggia, who is the favorite for Saturday’s downhill, dedicated her World Cup win in Cortina d’Ampezzo last month to Fanchini.

Fanchini last raced in December 2017. She was cleared to return to train nearly a year later but never made it fully back, and her condition grew worse in recent months.

Fanchini won her world downhill silver medal in Italy in 2005, exactly one month after her World Cup debut, an astonishing breakout.

Ten months later, she won a World Cup downhill in Canada with “Ciao Mamma” scribbled on face tape to guard against 1-degree temperatures. She was 20. Nobody younger than 21 has won a World Cup downhill since. Her second and final World Cup win, also a downhill, came more than nine years later.

In between her two World Cup wins, Fanchini raced at three Olympics with a best finish of 12th in the downhill in 2014. She missed the 2018 PyeongChang Olympics because of her condition.

Fanchini’s younger sisters Nadia and Sabrina were also World Cup racers.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

USA Boxing to skip world championships

USA Boxing
Getty
0 Comments

USA Boxing will not send boxers to this year’s men’s and women’s world championships, citing “the ongoing failures” of the IBA, the sport’s international governing body, that put boxing’s place on the Olympic program at risk.

The Washington Post first reported the decision.

In a letter to its members, USA Boxing Executive Director Mike McAtee listed many factors that led to the decision, including IBA governance issues, financial irregularities and transparency and that Russian and Belarusian boxers are allowed to compete with their flags.

IBA lifted its ban on Russian and Belarusian boxers in October and said it would allow their flags and anthems to return, too.

The IOC has not shifted from its recommendation to international sports federations last February that Russian and Belarusian athletes be barred, though the IOC and Olympic sports officials have been exploring whether those athletes could return without national symbols.

USA Boxing said that Russian boxers have competed at an IBA event in Morocco this month with their flags and are expected to compete at this year’s world championships under their flags.

“While sport is intended to be politically neutral, many boxers, coaches and other representatives of the Ukrainian boxing community were killed as a result of the Russian aggression against Ukraine, including coach Mykhaylo Korenovsky who was killed when a Russian missile hit an apartment block in January 2023,” according to the USA Boxing letter. “Ukraine’s sports infrastructure, including numerous boxing gyms, has been devastated by Russian aggression.”

McAtee added later that USA Boxing would still not send athletes to worlds even if Russians and Belarusians were competing as neutrals and without their flags.

“USA Boxing’s decision is based on the ‘totality of all of the factors,'” he said in an emailed response. “Third party oversite and fairness in the field of play is the most important factor.”

A message has been sent to the IBA seeking comment on USA Boxing’s decision.

The women’s world championships are in March in India. The men’s world championships are in May in Uzbekistan. They do not count toward 2024 Olympic qualifying.

In December, the IOC said recent IBA decisions could lead to “the cancellation of boxing” for the 2024 Paris Games.

Some of the already reported governance issues led to the IOC stripping IBA — then known as AIBA — of its Olympic recognition in 2019. AIBA had suspended all 36 referees and judges used at the 2016 Rio Olympics pending an investigation into a possible judging scandal, one that found that some medal bouts were fixed by “complicit and compliant” referees and judges.

The IOC ran the Tokyo Olympic boxing competition.

Boxing was not included on the initial program for the 2028 Los Angeles Games announced in December 2021, though it could still be added. The IBA must address concerns “around its governance, its financial transparency and sustainability and the integrity of its refereeing and judging processes,” IOC President Thomas Bach said then.

This past June, the IOC said IBA would not run qualifying competitions for the 2024 Paris Games.

In September, the IOC said it was “extremely concerned” about the Olympic future of boxing after an IBA extraordinary congress overwhelmingly backed Russian Umar Kremlev to remain as its president rather than hold an election.

Kremlev was re-elected in May after an opponent, Boris van der Vorst of the Netherlands, was barred from running against him. The Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled in June that van der Vorst should have been eligible to run against Kremlev, but the IBA group still decided not to hold a new election.

Last May, Rashida Ellis became the first U.S. woman to win a world boxing title at an Olympic weight since Claressa Shields in 2016, taking the 60kg lightweight crown in Istanbul. In Tokyo, Ellis lost 3-0 in her opening bout in her Olympic debut.

At the last men’s worlds in 2021, Robby Gonzales and Jahmal Harvey became the first U.S. men to win an Olympic or world title since 2007, ending the longest American men’s drought since World War II.

The Associated Press and NBC Olympic research contributed to this report.

OlympicTalk is on Apple News. Favorite us!