Hanyu cruises over Chan, claims Grand Prix Final gold

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Has Japan finally found the skater that can win the country its first gold medal in men’s figure skating? Yuzuru Hanyu just might be that man, the 18-year-old delivering a complete performance to capture the gold medal at the Grand Prix Final Friday in front of a home crowd, besting three-time world champion Patrick Chan.

Hanyu, a day shy of turning 19, carried a safe 12-point lead into the free skate following an epic short program. The teenager, the third-youngest Grand Prix Final champion in history, scored a 293.25 overall, easily beating Chan’s 280.08.

The Japanese crowd let out an audible gasp and screams when Hanyu opened his program with a hard fall on a quadruple Salchow. But Hanyu, coached by 1988 Olympic silver medalist Brian Orser, dusted himself off to land eight triples in his free skate. He retains the Grand Prix Final crown for his country: Daisuke Takahashi won it a year ago.

Nobunari Oda, a substitute for an injured Takahashi this year, fell on his opening jump as well, but finished with the home crowd clapping along to “Wilheim Tell Overture” as he secured the bronze medal. Tatsuki Machida was fourth in a Japan-heavy field.

Of the three medalists, Chan was the only to stay on his feet in the free skate, but the 22-year-old from Canada stepped out of a triple flip-double toe combination and didn’t have the firepower to claw back from a 12-point deficit following the short program.

Last month, the reigning and three-time world champion set a world record with his scores at the Grand Prix of France, but Hanyu has now disrupted Chan’s Olympic favorite status, throwing the men’s medal picture for Sochi into a cloud of confusion.

Takahashi, the bronze medalist in Vancouver, is likely to factor into that conversation, as could three-time Olympic medalist Yevgeny Plushenko, should the 31-year-old Russian be fit enough to skate in Sochi in February.

Plushenko’s countryman Maksim Kovtun was strong in his free skate, but finished fifth overall in the six-man field.

Hanyu moved up a spot from his second-place finish at the Grand Prix Final. He beat Chan here a year ago, as well, the Canadian finishing third.

Davis/White skate to lead in ice dancing

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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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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