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

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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.

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NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Saturday

Gabby Douglas, Aly Raisman
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Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman headline NBCSN Olympic Games Week on Saturday, part of seven hours of gymnastics programming.

From 8-11:30 p.m. ET, the London 2012 Games are featured. It starts with the team final, where the Fierce Five became the second U.S. women’s gymnastics team to earn an Olympic title.

Douglas, Raisman, Jordyn WieberMcKayla Maroney and Kyla Ross crushed Russia by 5.066 points to take gold, making good on the pre-Games attention that included a Sports Illustrated cover.

Two nights later, Douglas became the third straight American to win the all-around, the most prestigious title in gymnastics. Douglas, a Virginia native, lived with an Iowa host family to train under Liang Chow, who had coached Shawn Johnson to all-around silver in 2008.

Douglas’ year was magical. She went from seventh at the 2011 U.S. Championships to sneak onto the 2011 World team, then broke out as an unofficial competitor at the 2012 American Cup, posting a score that would have beaten Raisman and Wieber.

Raisman had an agonizing Olympic all-around, one that spurred her to come back for the Rio Games. She tied for bronze but was relegated to fourth on a tiebreaker with Russian Aliya Mustafina.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Saturday, 8 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

Later Saturday, Raisman returns for the Rio Olympic all-around (11:30 p.m.). Simone Biles ran away with the title, while Raisman distanced Mustafina for silver, a satisfying completion to her four-year journey that included two and a half years away from competition.

Raisman is not going for the Tokyo Games. Biles returned in 2018 and extended an undefeated streak that dates to 2013, winning the last two world all-around titles to become the most decorated male or female gymnast in worlds history. Biles is expected to retire after Tokyo.

Finally, at 1:30 a.m., is the 2004 Olympic women’s team final. The U.S. had high hopes after winning the 2003 World title in Los Angeles. But Romania had the best day. The U.S. took silver, at the time its best finish at an Olympics that it did not host.

That U.S. team was led by Carly Patterson, who two nights later won the all-around over Russian Svetlana Khorkina.

MORE: Shawn Johnson, Nastia Liukin wear 2008 leotards for Olympic watch party

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Saturday, April 25

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
8 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Gymnastics 2012 Team Final Stream Link
10 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Gymnastics 2012 All-Around Final Stream Link
11:30 p.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Gymnastics 2016 All-Around Final Stream Link
1:30 a.m. Olympic Classics Women’s Gymnastics 2004 Team Final Stream Link

 

NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week: What to watch on Saturday

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Usain Bolt‘s triple-gold-medal performance at the 2012 London Games highlights NBCSN’s Olympic Games Week programming on Saturday night.

Men’s sprints start the five-hour Return to London block at 10 p.m. ET. They’re followed by women’s sprints (11 p.m.), the women’s soccer final (12 a.m.) and men’s distance running (2 a.m.).

Bolt followed his world-record performances from the 2008 Beijing Games by sweeping the 100m, 200m and 4x100m in London. He became the second man to repeat as 100m champion (Carl Lewis) and the first to do it in the 200m.

Bolt carried more doubt to London than in Beijing. He was beaten in the Jamaican Olympic Trials by younger training partner Yohan Blake in the 100m and 200m.

But Bolt saved his best for the Olympic stage, distancing his countryman by .12 in the 100m and 200m finals. Bolt broke his Olympic record in clocking 9.63 and ran the fourth-fastest 200m in history, 19.32.

LIVE STREAM: NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Saturday, 10 p.m.-3 a.m. ET

In the women’s sprints, Allyson Felix and Sanya Richards-Ross earned their long-awaited individual gold medals.

Felix, after taking 200m silver in 2004 and 2008, won the half-lap event in 21.88 seconds, defeating 100m gold medalist Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce by .21. Felix would earn three golds in London, including in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay.

Richards-Ross took the 400m title, four years after fading to bronze as the favorite in Beijing. That 2008 race was especially emotional. Richards-Ross revealed nine years later that she had an abortion the day before flying out for the Games.

“I made a decision that broke me, and one from which I would not immediately heal,” she wrote in her 2017 book, “Chasing Grace.”

The women’s soccer final between the U.S. and Japan was a rematch of the 2011 World Cup final, won by Japan in a shootout. The U.S., after a thrilling, extra-time semifinal win over Canada, exacted revenge to win a third straight gold. Carli Lloyd, building her reputation as a clutch performer, scored both U.S. goals in a 2-1 victory.

The London Olympic men’s distance-running events produced arguably the moment of the Games. Kenyan David Rudisha broke the 800m world record by leading from start to finish. He clocked 1:40.91 and carried six of the seven men behind him to personal bests.

In other distance events, Americans picked up silver medals in the 1500m (Leo Manzano) and the 10,000m (Galen Rupp). Brit Mo Farah thrilled the home crowd by sweeping the 5000m and 10,000m.

MORE: Full Olympic Games Week TV, live stream schedule

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NBCSN Olympic Games Week — Saturday, April 18

Time (ET) Program Events Live Stream
10 p.m. Return to London Track and Field: Men’s Sprints STREAM LINK
11 p.m. Return to London Track and Field: Women’s Sprints STREAM LINK
12 a.m. Return to London Women’s Soccer Final: USA-Japan STREAM LINK
2 a.m. Return to London Track and Field: Men’s Distance STREAM LINK