Gerard Pique asks for help to play at Olympics in leaked audio

Gerard Pique
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MADRID — Gerard Piqué asked for help from the president of the Spanish soccer federation to play at the Tokyo Olympics, audio stolen from the federation revealed Wednesday.

The details, published by the El Confidencial newspaper, came after other audio had revealed that the Barcelona defender helped to negotiate a $26 million commission to take the federation’s Spanish Super Cup to Saudi Arabia.

Piqué can be heard asking federation president Luis Rubiales to talk to Olympic team coach Luis de la Fuente and set up a meeting between them.

“You have to do this for me, Rubi, you have to make it happen,” Piqué said. “We have to keep it a secret and talk to the coach … I’ll go to Madrid and we sit with him. We have to do it in a way that it’s not out anywhere. The three of us have to keep this very secret until the end, don’t you think?”

Rubiales agreed to talk to the coach but said it would be up to De la Fuente to decide what to do.

“Yes, we have to keep it a secret, and if the coach wants to do it, let’s go ahead with it, I’d be thrilled,” Rubiales said.

Piqué said he didn’t want the information leaked to keep other players from trying to request the same thing. He said he had heard that Sergio Ramos also wanted to play and likely leaked that to the media to try to pressure the coach.

The president eventually talked to De la Fuente and said the coach asked to wait until the national team had secured its qualification for the Olympic tournament.

“He said that after the team qualifies he will talk to you,” Rubiales said. “I don’t want to pressure him. He said he would like to talk to you, but after the team qualifies.”

Rubiales spoke publicly for the first time in a news conference on Wednesday and said that Piqué was not the only player who talked to him about going to the Olympics.

“I talked to De la Fuente about him and about other players as well,” Rubiales said. “I told him that some called and that he had to make his own decision. Piqué wasn’t the only player who called.”

Neither Piqué nor Ramos made it to the Olympic squad, which ended with the silver medal after losing to Brazil in the final. The over-23 players called up to the team were Mikel Merico, Marco Asensio and Dani Ceballos.

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Lucas Braathen, world’s top male slalom skier, in doubt for world championships

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Norway’s Lucas Braathen, the world’s top male slalom skier this season, is doubtful to compete in the world championships slalom on Feb. 19 after appendix surgery on Tuesday.

“It’s been a tough couple of days fighting after surprisingly finding out about quite an intense infection on my appendix,” Braathen, a 22-year-old soccer convert with a Brazilian mom, posted on social media. “I’ve been through surgery and I’m blessed that it went successfully.”

The Norway Alpine skiing team doctor said Braathen’s recovery will take a few weeks, but there is a small possibility he can make it back for the world championships slalom, which is on the final day of the two-week competition.

Braathen has two slalom wins and one giant slalom win this World Cup season. He will miss Saturday’s slalom in Chamonix, France, the last race before worlds. Countryman Henrik Kristoffersen and Swiss Daniel Yule can overtake him atop the World Cup slalom standings in Chamonix.

Braathen entered last year’s Olympics as the World Cup slalom leader and skied out in the first run at the Games.

ALPINE SKIING WORLDS: Broadcast Schedule

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Sifan Hassan sets marathon debut

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Sifan Hassan, who won 5000m and 10,000m gold and 1500m bronze at the Tokyo Olympics in an unprecedented triple, will make her 26.2-mile debut at the London Marathon on April 23.

Hassan, a 30-year-old Dutchwoman, said she will return to the track after the race, but how the London Marathon goes will play into whether she bids for the Olympic marathon in 2024.

“I want to see what I can do on the marathon distance, to make future decisions,” she posted on social media. “We’ll see if I will finish the distance or if the distance will finish me.”

Exhausted by her Olympic feat, Hassan reportedly went at least seven months after the Tokyo Games between training in track spikes. She finished fourth in the 10,000m and sixth in the 5000m at last July’s world championships in Eugene, Oregon.

“I really needed a break after the Tokyo Olympics,” Hassan said at worlds. “I was mentally crashed. I didn’t even care about running.”

London, billed as the best women’s marathon field in history, also boasts Olympic champion Peres Jepchirchir of Kenya, world record holder Brigid Kosgei of Kenya, 2016 Olympic 10,000m champion Almaz Ayana of Ethiopia, 1500m world record holder Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia and the two fastest Americans in history, Emily Sisson and Keira D’Amato.

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