Boston Marathon tribute, moment of silence held near finish line

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Survivors of last year’s Boston Marathon tragedy hailed courage, character and resilience in a solemn tribute Tuesday, the one-year anniversary of twin bombings that rocked the race.

“It’s difficult to believe it has only been one year,” said Adrianne Haslet-Davis, a dancer who lost her lower left leg in the bombings. “It feels like only a few weeks, and we have a long road yet to walk.”

Martin Richard, Krystle Campbell and Lingzi Lu died from injuries suffered during the explosions near the finish line on Boylston Street. More than 260 others were injured. This year’s race will go on Monday, the traditional Patriots’ Day event and the 118th edition of the world’s oldest annual marathon.

Haslet-Davis and three more survivors spoke Tuesday along with Vice President Joe Biden, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh and other officials in front of more than 2,000 invited guests, those affected by the bombings, at Hynes Convention Center near the site of last year’s tragedy.

The two-hour ceremony, which included music from the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra and vocalists, was followed by a walk outside, into light rain, for a moment of silence and flag-raising at the finish line.

“We are Boston. We are America. We respond. We endure. We overcome. We own the finish line,” said Biden, the final speaker of the indoor ceremony.

Biden also spoke at last year’s memorial service for Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer Sean Collier, whom authorities say was shot and killed by Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev three days after the brothers carried out the Boston Marathon bombings.

“I’ve never, never, never witnessed a tribute like I heard today,” Biden said. “You have survived, and you have soared.”

Haslet-Davis drew smiles with optimism.

“No milestone is too small to celebrate,” she said, “even walking into a non-handicapped bathroom stall for the first time doing a happy dance. It’s the little things.”

Patrick Downes also lost his lower left leg in the attack. So did his newlywed wife. He spoke of the sense of community that has enveloped the survivors.

“We should have never met this way,” Downes said, “but we are so grateful for each other.”

David Yepez, then 15, suffered a torn ear drum, second-degree arm burns, and had a 3-inch piece of shrapnel embedded 6 inches into his leg. He was a spectator, at the site of the second of two bombings in 12 seconds, feet away from Martin Richard, the 8-year-old who was killed.

He praised the first responders and medical helpers, many of whom were at the tribute.

“Thank you for your love, compassion and generosity,” Yepez said. “You have touched our hearts in a way that, many times, our gratitude could only be expressed through our tears of joy.”

David’s father, Luis Yepez, also spoke.

“On that toughest mile, just when we think we’ve hit a wall, there will be someone there to cheer us on and pick us up if we fall,” Luis said.

Outside, the Irish tenor Ronan Tynan performed “God Bless America” before the moment of silence at 2:49 p.m., the time the first bomb exploded. The Old South Church bells tolled. An American flag was hoisted up and the national anthem was sung. Bagpipes were played below a crowd of umbrellas.

On Monday, the 118th Boston Marathon will include the second-largest field in race history. The group of some 36,000 runners — 9,000 more than 2013 — will accommodate about 5,000 who did not have the opportunity to cross the finish line last year. Only the Centennial Boston Marathon in 1996 drew more runners (38,708 entrants).

The first athletes will start at 8:50 a.m. ET. The elite women go off at 9:32, the elite men at 10 and the final wave at 11:25.

It’s estimated more than one million well-wishers may line the route from Hopkinton to Boston, double the usual amount, with 3,500 police officers, more than double last year’s number.

Officials stress a simple theme among the staggering statistics — to preserve the traditional feel and character of the Boston Marathon.

“I’ve never heard anything so beautiful as what all of you just said,” Biden said in his speech. “You are the proof that America can never, never, never be defeated.”

Boston sports teams share same #BostonStrong tweet

Review: USA Gymnastics needs ‘culture change’ to stop abuse

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A former federal prosecutor says USA Gymnastics needs a “complete cultural change” to better protect athletes from sexual abuse.

USA Gymnastics needs a “complete cultural change” to better protect athletes from sexual abuse, according to an independent review of the embattled organization’s practices.

The 44-page report released Tuesday by former federal prosecutor Deborah Daniels recommends that all USA Gymnastics members be required to immediately report suspected sexual misconduct to legal authorities and the U.S. Center for SafeSport.

Daniels also suggested that USA Gymnastics prohibit adults from being alone with minor gymnasts “at all times” and bar unrelated adults from sharing or being alone in a sleeping room with gymnasts. She also recommended preventing adult members from having “out of program” contact with gymnasts through email, text or social media.

USA Gymnastics ordered the review last fall following a series of civil lawsuits filed against the organization and a former team doctor by a pair of gymnasts who claim the physician sexually abused them during their time on the U.S. national team. USA Gymnastics has denied wrongdoing.

The organization stated it went to authorities quickly in the summer of 2015 after hearing claims of abuse against Dr. Larry Nassar but later amended the timeline following a Wall Street Journal report, saying it conducted a five-week internal review before going to the FBI.

“A delay is impermissible,” Daniels said.

A Michigan judge on Friday ordered Nassar to stand trial on charges of sexually assaulting six young gymnasts who said he molested them while they were seeking treatment for various injuries. It is one of four criminal cases against Nassar in the state.

Daniels said USA Gymnastics “inadvertently suppressed” reporting of abuse because of several factors, including that athletes are taught to follow instructions and obey coaches and trainers.

“Athletes sometimes aren’t aware of where the boundaries are, so they’re not trained in that regard,” Daniels said. “Parents aren’t real sure (either).”

Daniels said the organization needs to more closely monitor member clubs to make sure its bylaws are followed. She suggested stripping membership from clubs that fail to report claims of child abuse, plus periodic random audits to see if updated policies are being obeyed.

“USA Gymnastics has never felt it had the ability to exert influence over the club,” Daniels said. “You can use membership to enforce the policies.”

The USA Gymnastics Board of Directors unanimously voted to develop a plan to implement many of Daniels’ 70 recommendations.

“We’re confident it will make us a better organization to develop a culture that had safe sport as a top priority,” said chief operating officer Ron Galimore.

Daniels said the process USA Gymnastics had for investigating claims of abuse was “cumbersome” and “somewhat mysterious.” She suggested a more proactive approach.

“There needs to be a very clear protocol for how these reviews are conducted, there needs to be a clear timeline,” she said. “Frankly they need to be kept in a database. We’ve recommended that the board have oversight of that entire process.”

While also taking the role of the USA Gymnastics president out of the equation. Former president Steve Penny resigned in March under intensifying pressure for the way the organization handled charges of sexual abuse. Daniels wants USA Gymnastics to remove the president from determining the disposition of allegations. USA Gymnastics is in the process of finding Penny’s replacement and hopes to have a successor in place by September.

Whoever is hired will have plenty of work to do.

Many of the recommendations fall in line with policies put forward by the U.S. Center for Safesport. The organization operates independently from the U.S. Olympic Committee and organizations governing Olympic sports. The USOC and the 47 national governing bodies (including USA Gymnastics) help fund the center — about $13.3 million over five years — but do not have any say over how it operates or the cases it investigates.

Paul Parilla, chairman of the USA Gymnastics Board of Directors, said the organization needs to “clearly articulate” that the safety of the athletes is “paramount.”

Galimore said it is a priority to make sure “everyone is aware and educated on everything from bullying to anything that would take away from having a safe environment.”

Daniels spoke to more than 160 people at all levels of USA Gymnastics over six months, attended five competitions and visited the national team’s training center at the Karolyi Ranch in Huntsville, Texas, to produce the 144 page report. She said the number of gymnasts abused nationwide over the years is “far higher” than what has been reported based on her experience as a federal prosecutor but stressed “my recommendations are forward looking and not in relation to anything that may have happened in the past.”

She also believes third parties should be allowed to report suspected abuse. The previous method of looking into alleged wrongdoing — a “grievance process” which required a written complaint from the aggrieved party or the parents of the aggrieved party if the athlete was a minor — was not well suited for reporting abuse, the report said.

“Young athletes (in their teens or younger) and their parents are highly unlikely to report ongoing abuse to the authority that has so much power over the athlete’s success in the sport,” Daniels wrote.

MORE: Ex-USA Gym doctor to stand trial on sex assault charges

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Katie Ledecky an underdog in first final at USA Swimming Nationals

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Katie Ledecky qualified sixth-fastest into the 100m freestyle final on Tuesday to open the USA Swimming National Championships, part of the TeamUSA Summer Champions Series, presented by Comcast.

The top two in Tuesday night’s final will make the world championships team in the event.

Ledecky, who swam 54.70 seconds Tuesday morning, is an underdog in that sense behind top qualifiers Mallory Comerford (53.26) and co-Olympic 100m free champion Simone Manuel (53.50).

MORE: Broadcast Schedule | Event Schedule/Results

But Ledecky, Olympic champion in the 200m, 400m and 800m frees, has never voiced intentions of making the U.S. team in the 100m free. She ranked No. 5 in the nation in the event last year. Ledecky swims the 100m free to earn a place on the 4x100m freestyle relay.

Just making the eight-woman final, combined with Ledecky having the second-fastest U.S. split time in the Rio 4x100m free relay, puts her in contention for the quartet at worlds in July.

Ledecky is scheduled to race both the 100m and 800m free finals Tuesday, her only double of the five-day meet in Indianapolis. Her races are separated by 27 minutes.

Tuesday finals are at 6 p.m. ET, with coverage from 7-8 p.m. on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app.

Comerford, who tied Ledecky for the NCAA 200-yard freestyle title, had the breakout female swim of the first session in Indianapolis. Her 53.26 was a personal best by .65. The rising Louisville junior moved from No. 15 on the U.S. all-time list to No. 3 behind Manuel and Amanda Weir.

In other events, 2012 Olympic champion Nathan Adrian and Caeleb Dressel were among the qualifiers into the men’s 100m freestyle final. The fastest qualifier was surprisingly Zach Apple, who clocked 48.14 seconds, a personal best by 1.29 seconds.

Chase Kalisz, the Olympic 400m IM silver medalist, qualified fastest into the 200m butterfly final. Kalisz could make the U.S. team in three events this week. He ranks No. 1 in the 200m butterfly and both IMs.

Olympian Tom Shields missed making the eight-man final by .11, placing ninth overall.

Olympian Hali Flickinger was the top qualifier into the women’s 200m butterfly final. Cammile Adams, who finished fourth in Rio, is not competing at nationals.

Kelsi Worrell, who was second-fastest in the U.S. this year behind Flickinger entering this week, is not swimming the 200m fly at nationals.

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