Nick Symmonds

Nick Symmonds wins silver in 800 meters, first major international medal (video)

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Nick Symmonds snapped a personal drought and an American drought with a silver medal in the 800 meters at the World Track and Field Championships on Tuesday.

Ethiopian favorite Mohammed Aman won in 1 minute, 43.31 seconds, passing Symmonds on the final straightaway. Symmonds grimaced crossing the line in 1:43.55, then poked his tongue out wryly. Djibouti’s Ayanleh Souleiman got bronze in 1:43.76.

Symmonds, 29, in his fourth World Championships, won the first U.S. medal in the event at an Olympics or worlds since Rich Kenah‘s bronze in 1997. It’s the highest an American has finished in the two-lap race at a worlds.

“I think I’d prefer gold, and I did everything I could to get it,” Symmonds told Universal Sports. “I thought I had the gold until the last 10 meters. … I raced for the gold, and I’m happy with the silver.”

Adding in Olympics, it’s the best finish since Dave Wottle‘s hat-wearing golden run at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Both Symmonds and fellow American Duane Solomon were considered medal contenders as the top returning finishers from the 2012 Olympic final. The Olympic gold, silver and bronze medalists were missing from this year’s World Championships, including world record holder David Rudisha.

Solomon, the U.S. champion with the fastest time in the world this year, took the lead at 200 meters in Tuesday’s final and held it through 600 meters. Symmonds came side by side with Solomon at 400, taking the lead around the final turn before being passed by Aman.

Solomon faded to sixth place in 1:44.42.

Clearly, Symmonds’ pre-race strategy of taking a selfie and reading “Fifty Shades of Grey” paid off.

World Track and Field Championships broadcast schedule

Russians stripped of Sochi Olympic skeleton medals; Uhlaender in line for bronze

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Sochi Olympic gold medalist Alexander Tretiyakov and bronze medalist Elena Nikitina of Russia were stripped of their skeleton medals for doping.

It puts the U.S. above Russia atop the Sochi Olympic total medal standings. American Katie Uhlaender is in line for her first Olympic medal.

A full IOC decision is here.

The IOC has stripped Russia of six of its leading 33 medals from the Sochi Winter Games after it commissioned investigations into reports of a state-sponsored doping program leading up to and during the Olympics.

Pending appeals, Latvian Martins Dukurs is in line to be upgraded to men’s skeleton gold, American Matthew Antoine to silver and Latvian Tomass Dukurs to bronze.

In the women’s event, Uhlaender could get her first Olympic medal from her third Games. She originally missed bronze by .04 in Sochi.

“I was half asleep,” Uhlaender said of learning the news at 6 a.m. at a World Cup stop in Whistler, B.C., according to ESPN.com. “I said to [U.S. coach] Tuffy [Latour], ‘Am I dreaming? Is this real?’ And then I got emotional.”

Tretiyakov and Nikitina, as well as two more Russian skeleton sliders sanctioned Wednesday, are disqualified from any future Olympics.

The Russian bobsled and skeleton federation president said the athletes will appeal, according to Russian news agency TASS.

Olga Potylitsina and Maria Orlova, Russians who were fifth and sixth in Sochi, also had their results stripped and were disqualified from future Winter Games.

Previously, the IOC stripped Russian cross-country skiers Alexander Legkov and Maxim Vylegzhanin of their five combined Sochi medals (one each of those medals was won together on a relay).

Russia Olympic Committee president Alexander Zhukov said he expects Russia to be stripped of its two- and four-man bobsled gold medals, too, according to TASS.

Ten Russian athletes total have been retroactively disqualified from the Sochi Olympics. The IOC will decide on Russia’s participation in the PyeongChang Olympics on Dec. 5.

If all Sochi medals are reallocated, Russia will fall from first to third in the total medal standings. Norway and the U.S. would share the lead with 29 medals.

As it stands, without any reallocations yet, the U.S. has 28 medals, Russia has 27 and Norway has 26.

Tretiyakov and Nikitina were looking like medal contenders for PyeongChang.

Tretiyakov, a 32-year-old nicknamed the “Russian Rocket,” was fourth at last season’s world championships and ranked fourth in this season’s World Cup standings.

He was third in last season’s World Cup standings despite being suspended for one race in January.

Tretiyakov, Nikitina, Potylitsina and Orlova were all provisionally suspended for three weeks last December and January after the IOC began disciplinary proceedings for athletes with “evidence of manipulation of one or more of their urine samples” from Sochi.

The suspensions were lifted after nine days “due to a lack of evidence” from a World Anti-Doping Agency-commissioned report on Russian doping.

Nikitina, 25, leads this season’s World Cup standings after the first two races. She won last weekend’s race in Park City, Utah.

Uhlaender has been waiting for this decision for more than a year, since the first reports of widespread Russian doping from Sochi in spring 2016.

“I understand that it was a difference of culture and that the Russians don’t believe they did anything wrong,” Uhlaender said Wednesday, according to The Associated Press. “But this was the only way to fix it.”

The 33-year-old Uhlaender reportedly had an exchange with Nikitina on Facebook after Nikitina’s name appeared on an athlete list that guided Russian doping violations in Sochi.

“I am not on the list!” Nikitina told Uhlaender in 2016, according to The New York Times. “I hope that the truth will prevail! And the perpetrators of this scandal will be punished!”

Uhlaender has been emotional in interviews leading into this Olympic season.

On May 6, she was the first to find the late Steven Holcomb, a close friend, unresponsive in his Olympic Training Center room.

“I wish Steve was here,” Uhlaender said, according to ESPN. “He would be so elated. He would have broken into my room and woken me up. I miss him so much.”

Last year, she suffered a life-threatening autoimmune attack which put her in and out of the hospital for six weeks.

Doctors asked Uhlaender for her next of kin, she said, according to the Deseret News.

“I was like, ‘Oh, I’m dying,’” Uhlaender said in September, according to the newspaper. “I couldn’t drink, couldn’t eat, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t sleep. … I was hallucinating. Every time I took a breath, it was like someone stabbed me or punched me, so I was having to breathe really shallow. That’s why I thought I wasn’t going to make it.”

Martins Dukurs is in line for the first Winter Olympic gold medal for Latvia and the fourth Olympic gold overall for the former Soviet republic.

He was the world No. 1 going into the 2010 and 2014 Olympics but ended up with silver at both Games behind host-nation sliders (Jon Montgomery, Tretiyakov). He has won six of the last seven world championships.

The Dukurs brothers would become the seventh set of siblings to win Winter Olympic medals in the same individual event, according to Olympic historians.

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Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former doctor accused of molesting girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University pleaded guilty Wednesday to multiple charges of sexual assault and will face at least 25 years in prison.

Larry Nassar, 54, admitted to abusing seven girls, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic. All but one of his accusers was a gymnast. He faces similar charges in a neighboring county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls. Nassar lost his license to practice medicine in April.

Olympic gymnasts Aly Raisman, McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims.

Some of his accusers attended the hearing Wednesday in a packed Ingham County courtroom. Some were crying.

“For all those involved … I’m so horribly sorry that this was like a match that turned into a forest fire out of control,” Nassar said. “I pray the rosary every day for forgiveness. I want them to heal. I want the community to heal.”

Nassar admitted to digitally penetrating the victims and agreed that his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent.

“It is about time that Larry plead [sic] guilty and owned up to his actions,” was posted on Raisman’s social media. “I am beyond disgusted that a decorated Olympic and USA Gymnastics doctor was able to prey upon so many over such a long period of time. Until we fully understand the flaws in the system that allowed this to happen in the first place — and enabled it to continue for decades — we can’t be confident it won’t happen again. We need more than optimistic assurances, we need answers. We need to take a hard, honest look at the sport’s culture, governance, and leadership, so we can understand the problem, and come up with solutions that will make the sport safer for current and future generations. I am determined to work towards real and meaningful change. Abuse is never ok; ONE TIME IS TOO MANY AND ONE PERSON IS TOO MANY. We may never know how many others may be suffering in silence therefore it is important for us to have an environment where it is safe and comfortable for those to come forward.”

The plea deal in Ingham County calls for a minimum prison sentence of 25 years, but a judge could set the minimum sentence as high as 40 years. In Michigan, inmates are eligible for parole after serving a minimum sentence.

Sentencing was set for Jan. 12.

A prosecutor said 125 women and girls have filed complaints with Michigan State University police.

Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told Nassar: “You used your position of trust … in the most vile way to abuse children. … I agree that now is a time of healing, but it may take them a lifetime of healing while you spend your lifetime behind bars thinking about what you did in taking away their childhood.”

She called the accusers “superheroes for all of America, because this is an epidemic.”

The girls have testified that Nassar molested them with his hands, sometimes when a parent was present in the room, while they sought help for gymnastics injuries.

After the hearing, one of the accusers, Larissa Boyce, said it was “really hard” to look at Nassar in the courtroom.

“This was a man we trusted. He’s admitting what he did was wrong and evil,” she said.

Separately, Nassar is charged with similar crimes in Eaton County, the location of an elite gymnastics club. He also is awaiting sentencing in federal court on child pornography charges.

The Michigan criminal cases against Nassar followed reports last year in the Indianapolis Star about how USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians, mishandled complaints about sexual misconduct involving the doctor and coaches.

Women and girls said the stories inspired them to step forward with detailed allegations of abuse, sometimes when their parents were in the exam room at Michigan State.

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