Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn ready to return to training on snow in Chile

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The next step in Lindsey Vonn‘s recovery is one flight and a few days away.

The Olympic downhill champion has been cleared to ski on snow six months after reconstructive surgery on her right knee following tearing an ACL in a crash at the World Alpine Skiing Championships in February. She will fly to Portillo, Chile, for a training camp Friday. She previously said she planned to return to snow on Sept. 1, which is Sunday.

Vonn said her right knee is nearly at full strength compared to her left knee, 98 percent to be exact, and hasn’t needed to ice the knee after a workout in a month and a half, according to reports of those who saw Vonn working out in Vail, Colo., on Wednesday. The Denver Post has a write up here.

Vonn probably will start with free skiing in Portillo, but she is hoping to run some gates during her two-week stay. She will have to “negotiate” that with Dr. Bill Sterett, who performed her surgery in February.

“I asked him to come down,” Vonn said. “So he’s coming down, and will monitor me. I’m hoping to start training in a couple of days, but my expectations are sometimes a little out of whack.”

She also repeated she expects to start her season at the World Cup stop in nearby Beaver Creek, Colo., which takes place Nov. 29-Dec. 1. It’s the third stop on the World Cup tour, which begins Oct. 26 in Solden, Austria.

Vonn, 28, will be one of the early stars of the Olympics. Her best events come in the first full week of competition. The opening ceremony is Friday, Feb. 7. Vonn, if healthy, would be expected to race at least the super combined (Feb. 10), downhill (Feb. 12) and super-G (Feb. 15).

As the Games go on, the focus shifts from speed events to technical events. Vonn, best known for her speed prowess, will pass the proverbial torch to her teammates. Julia Mancuso, also a medal contender in the speed events, won the 2006 Olympic title in the giant slalom, which goes Feb. 18. Mikaela Shiffrin, 18, is the world champion in the slalom, which takes place Feb. 21.

Included in all of those events may be the woman who took the mantle of world’s greatest all-around skier from Vonn this past season — Slovenia’s Tina Maze.

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Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor pleads guilty to sexual assault

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A sports 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, was charged with molesting 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.

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.

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.

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.

“He convinced these girls that this was some type of legitimate treatment,” Assistant Attorney General Angela Poviliatis told a judge last summer. “Why would they question him? Why would they question this gymnastics god?”

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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MORE: Aly Raisman in book: ‘Horrible memories’ with Larry Nassar

Indian police probe Maria Sharapova housing fraud case

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NEW DELHI (AP) — Maria Sharapova is being investigated by police in India in a cheating and criminal conspiracy case involving a real estate company who used the tennis star to endorse a luxury housing project that never took off.

Real estate firm Homestead Infrastructure is accused of taking tens of millions of rupees (millions of dollars) from home buyers for a project named “Ballet by Maria Sharapova,” a luxury apartment complex with its own helipad, tennis academy and other amenities.

The five-time Grand Slam champion and Olympic silver medalist traveled to India in 2013 to launch the project at a glitzy ceremony. Police began the investigation on Nov. 16.

Piyush Singh, a lawyer representing one of the home buyers, said Wednesday that Sharapova’s celebrity was the reason most people put their money into the project.

Singh said his client, Bhawana Agarwal, paid Homestead Infrastructure 5.3 million rupees ($81,678) in 2013 because she was impressed by Sharapova’s association with the project located in Gurgaon, a suburb of the Indian capital. The cost of an apartment in the swanky project was 20 million rupees ($308,000).

Agarwal then spent the next three years chasing the builders for updates on the property and her investment in it but they stopped taking her calls, Singh said. On Wednesday, several calls to the numbers of the building company’s website went unanswered.

“The project never saw the light of day,” Singh said.

Singh said the police investigation based on his client’s complaint was testing relatively new legal ground – that celebrities endorsing projects that draw vast sums of money from investors had a responsibility “to do some due diligence” on the project before lending their name and credibility to it.

Sharapova isn’t the only international sports celebrity that the real estate firm roped in. Its website also advertises a project with Formula One great Michael Schumacher called the Michael Schumacher World Tower.

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MORE: Sharapova not fully committed to 2020 Olympic run