As football pub quiz questions go, this one is pretty good:
Which Manchester City player broke the record for the fastest goal ever scored at the Olympics?
The answer is: Janine Beckie.
Indeed, the forward struck after just 19 seconds in Rio, Brazil, setting Canada on their way to bronze medal success at the 2016 Games, writing her name into the history books.
That record would actually be broken again two weeks later when Neymar found the net on home soil after 14 seconds but Colorado native Beckie’s record still stands in the women’s game.
Now, you may ask yourself: why does US-born Beckie represent Canada?
Though the 26-year-old was born and raised in Highlands Ranch (and represented the United States at youth level), she was offered the chance to play for the country in which her parents and three siblings were born, and took the opportunity with both hands – or feet.
Having competed for Canada at the Under-20 World Cup, she was then selected to help the senior side to better their 2012 third-place finish at the Olympics.
She starred in Rio, scoring three goals – including her lightning opener – as Canada successfully defended their bronze medal, defeating tournament hosts Brazil in the play-off.
That historic game against Australia would prove significant for Beckie for another reason too. The game was just 19 minutes old when defender Shelina Zadorsky was sent off, leaving Canada a player down and defending a narrow lead.
Showcasing her team ethic, commitment to the cause and ultimately, her versatility, Beckie stepped in to shoulder the defensive duties – unafraid to show the physical side of her game in her efforts to steer her side to a hard-fought 2-0 win.
It was an unfamiliar experience but one that stood her in good stead for the future for – unbeknown to her at the time – it would become a more regular position in the years to come…
Five years later, Beckie is plying her trade in Manchester, England – set to embark on her fourth season with Manchester City. Though still naturally a forward, she has occupied a number of positions during her time in Manchester – full-back being one of them, as she has selflessly stepped into the breach time after time to provide cover whenever needed; all for the benefit of the team.
Admired for her positive outlook, warmth and team spirit, Beckie is one of the most beloved members of the squad. Affectionately known as the ‘unsung hero’ or the ‘model human’, she is truly a friend to everyone and is always there to lend a hand – whatever the situation. She is driven by her faith and her passion, as well as the opportunity to inspire or instil happiness in others.
Even when in the spotlight, such as after netting the winning penalty in the 2019 Continental Cup Final shoot-out triumph over Arsenal, she ran straight to ‘MVP’ Karen Bardsley, who had saved two spot-kicks, and hailed the team’s efforts as key to the success.
While her exploits in defence may not have yielded as many match-winning moments or the level of goal-scoring glory she had perhaps been used to (she had become the Texas Tech Red Raiders’ all-time leading female goal-scorer), she approached the change with a typically optimistic outlook, eager to help her teammates and gain a new tactical understanding of the game in the process.
“It’s asked a lot of me from a technical perspective – to be solid in my own half, where I’m not used to touching the ball, and I really had to go into the position with an open mind and a learning mindset – but it’s been good. It’s done loads for me back up top. I’m cleaner in possession, my decision-making is better and so is my composure on the ball when pressed. This Club is about playing out – keeping possession – and to have been able to do that from a deeper position has added to my game.”
When Nick Cushing and Gareth Taylor were assessing their options for defensive cover, it is unsurprising that they both considered Beckie as a potential back-up. Employed as a winger throughout her career in sky blue, her fitness and pace down the flanks was pivotal, her strength essential and her willingness to put the needs of the team above her own vital.
"The good thing about Janine is she wants to learn. We asked her to do a role for the team and play as a right-back rather than a right winger... The best of Janine is: she is willing to do it. She is someone I thoroughly enjoy working with because she wants to learn, and she goes out on the training pitch and works hard.”
Hailing from a sporting background (basketball-loving parents and soccer-mad siblings), it was only natural Janine would excel in physical activity and while she also enjoyed gymnastics, basketball, athletics and lacrosse in her youth, thankfully, she opted to pursue ‘soccer.’
Eager to achieve her dream of playing professionally, she was fearless in her decision to travel across the Atlantic and make the move to England, following successful spells with Sky Blue FC and the Houston Dash, and has gone on to lift three trophies with City, scoring in the 2020 Women’s FA Cup Final at Wembley and netting the winning penalty in the aforementioned Conti Cup Final the same season.
Upon signing for City back in the summer of 2018, Beckie spoke of her desire to improve the tactical, possession-based side of her game. While she may well not have expected to gain her most valuable lessons from the full-back position, her ambition of improving her overall game has definitely been reached.
City – and Canada – are all the richer for her varied experience, and her willingness to try…