Lindsey Vonn

Lindsey Vonn 12th in Val d’Isere downhill training

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If Lindsey Vonn‘s goal is to make a World Cup podium before the Sochi Olympics, she’ll have to improve one second after her training run Wednesday to do it in Val d’Isere, France.

The Olympic downhill champion placed 12th in the first training run for Saturday’s race. Vonn completed the course in 1 minute, 50.53 seconds, .97 behind third-place Carolina Ruiz Castillo of Spain on Wednesday. Maria Hoefl-Riesch was fastest in 1:49.30.

Vonn, 29, returned from major right knee injuries in Lake Louise, Alberta, two weeks ago and competed in three races, improving each day with a 40th and an 11th in downhills and a fifth in a super-G.

She told reporters after her final race there that she might race one or two more times before the Olympics in February.

“I want to make sure I at least get on the podium once, if not win before going into Sochi,” she said Dec. 8. “For me mentally I really want to have that in my back pocket.”

The racers will have two more days of training before the downhill race Saturday. There is a giant slalom Sunday, but Vonn is not expected to enter that event and may not do giant slalom at all this season.

If Vonn races a World Cup again after Val d’Isere, it likely would not come until January because there are no speed races the rest of 2013.

There are downhills in Altenmarkt, Austria; Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy; and Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, on consecutive weekends beginning Jan. 11.

Vonn has competed at Val d’Isere once since 2010, but her track record there is spectacular. She’s won nine of 18 career races there, including World Championships in the downhill and super-G in 2009.

World giant slalom champion tears ACL

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