Christian Pulisic wants to play in Olympics, but it’s complicated

Christian Pulisic
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Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, one of the U.S.’ top male soccer players, said Wednesday that he would like to play in the Olympics, but that’s not something he controls.

“The Olympics is something that is, of course, a massive honor to play in. To represent your country in an Olympics would be amazing,” Pulisic said when asked if he’d be interested in playing in the Olympics. “It’s something I’ve thought about and I have wanted to play in. Obviously, I can’t control exactly what goes on and what is best for me at the time and what’s best for the team at the time, I obviously can’t say. But it is something that I would like to play in.”

The U.S. men play a winner-goes-to-Tokyo match in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying on Sunday in Mexico against, likely, Canada or Honduras.

They failed to qualify for the Olympics in 2012 and 2016.

Pulisic, 22, is one of many U.S. stars who are age-eligible for the under-23 qualifying tournament but are not on the roster. That’s in large part because clubs aren’t required to release players for Olympic qualifying, and it’s midseason for the top European leagues.

Complicating matters: clubs aren’t required to release players for the Olympics, either. But they are required to release players for the Gold Cup, a senior tournament for the U.S. and other CONCACAF national teams that runs during the Olympics (but, and this may be important, finishes six days before the Olympic final).

“I’m not the one to answer that question,” about players in the Olympics, U.S. men’s national team coach Gregg Berhalter said Wednesday. “The one to answer that question are the players’ clubs. We have to sit and have conversations with these clubs. We have to say, OK, guys, here’s what’s coming up in the calendar. You have Nations League [in early June in a FIFA window]. You have Gold Cup. You have Olympics. You have World Cup qualifying in three [FIFA] windows in the fall. And then 2022, you have January and March [World Cup qualifying in FIFA windows]. So, what do you think, guys? You want to release your players for the Olympics, and what are they going to say? It’s an uphill battle that we’re fighting.”

Berhalter said that, in a perfect world, he would like to see the best players in the Olympics.

“I’m just not sure that’s going to happen,” Berhalter said. “I’m not sure the clubs are going to allow the players to go.”

Berhalter said it’s also not realistic for the Gold Cup roster to be mostly Europe-based players after their 2020-21 club seasons and Nations League. They would miss 2021-22 preseason time, too.

If Pulisic is released by Chelsea for the Olympics, the decision falls on the U.S. to choose between the Gold Cup and the Tokyo Games, which is mostly for players 23 and under. Or neither and save him for World Cup qualifying later in 2021.

It brings to mind what happened five years ago, when a deal was struck among Brazil, FC Barcelona and Neymar to allow him to play in the Rio Olympics but not Copa America Centenario, which was a tournament for which clubs were required to release players. The difference: Copa America ended before the Rio Games.

For Pulisic, he is guaranteed to be allowed to play for the U.S. in late July and early August. It’s just a matter of which, if either, tournament is preferred by his club and, potentially, U.S. Soccer.

Other American stars in a similar situation to Pulisic: Weston McKennie of Juventus, Gio Reyna of Borussia Dortmund, Sergiño Dest of Barcelona and Tyler Adams of Leipzig.

The U.S. is so stocked with young talent that all of them are age-eligible for the Olympics (born on or after Jan. 1, 1997) without having to use one of up to three over-age exceptions.

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Ironman Kona World Championships return for first time in three years, live on Peacock

Ironman Kona World Championship
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The Ironman Kona World Championships return after a three-year hiatus with a new format, live on Peacock on Thursday and Saturday at 12 p.m. ET.

The Ironman, held annually in Hawaii since 1978, and in Kailua-Kona since 1981, was not held in 2020 or 2021 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The world championships made a one-time-only stop in St. George, Utah, on May 7 to make up for the 2021 cancellation. The winners were Norway’s Kristian Blummenfelt, the Tokyo Olympic triathlon champion, and Swiss Daniela Ryf, who bagged her fifth Ironman world title.

Both are entered in Kailua-Kona, where the races are now split between two days — Thursday for the women and Saturday for the men.

An Ironman includes a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike and a marathon — totaling 140.6 miles of racing. It takes top triathletes eight hours to complete. Very arguably, it crowns the world’s fittest man and woman.

WATCH LIVE: Ironman Kona, Thursday, 12 p.m. ET — STREAM LINK

Ryf, 35 and a 2008 and 2012 Olympian, can tie retired countrywoman Natascha Badmann for second place on the women’s list at six Ironman world titles. Only Zimbabwean-turned-American Paula Newby-Fraser has more with eight.

The field also includes German Anne Haug, the 2019 Kona champ and only woman other than Ryf to win since 2015. Brit Lucy Charles-Barclay, the Kona runner-up in 2017, 2018 and 2019, returns after missing the St. George event due to a stress fracture in her hip.

Blummenfelt, 28 and in his Kona debut, will try to become the youngest male champion in Kona since German Normann Stadler in 2005. His top challengers include countryman Gustav Iden, the two-time reigning Half Ironman world champion, and German Patrick Lange, the 2017 and 2018 Ironman Kona winner.

Also racing Saturday is Dallas Clark, a retired All-Pro NFL tight end with the Indianapolis Colts, and Tony Kanaan, the 2013 Indy 500 champion who completed the 2011 Kona Ironman in 12 hours, 52 minutes, 40 seconds.

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Joan Benoit Samuelson, Olympic marathon champ in 1984, runs London Marathon at 65

Joan Benoit Samuelson
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Joan Benoit Samuelson, the first Olympic women’s marathon champion in 1984, ran her first 26.2-mile race in three years at Sunday’s London Marathon and won her age group.

Benoit Samuelson, 65, clocked 3 hours, 20 minutes, 20 seconds to top the women’s 65-69 age group by 7 minutes, 52 seconds. She took pleasure in being joined in the race by daughter Abby, who crossed in 2:58:19.

“She may have beaten me with my replacement knee, but everybody said I wouldn’t do it! I will never say never,” Benoit Samuelson said, according to race organizers. “I am a grandmother now to Charlotte, and it’s my goal to run 5K with her.”

LONDON MARATHON: Results

Benoit Samuelson raced the 1987 Boston Marathon while three months pregnant with Abby. Before that, she won the first Olympic women’s marathon at the 1984 Los Angeles Games, plus the Boston Marathon in 1979 and 1983 and the Chicago Marathon in 1985.

Her personal best — 2:21:21 — still holds up. She ranks sixth in U.S. women’s history.

Benoit Samuelson plans to race the Tokyo Marathon to complete her set of doing all six annual World Marathon Majors. The others are Berlin, Boston, Chicago and New York City.

“I’m happy to finish this race and make it to Tokyo, but I did it today on a wing and a prayer,” she said, according to organizers. “I’m blessed to have longevity in this sport. It doesn’t owe me anything, but I feel I owe my sport.”

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