Ryan Lochte

Recovered Ryan Lochte ready for full slate at Nationals

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IRVINE, Calif. — Ryan Lochte makes statements with his swimming and his fashion. When the 11-time Olympic medalist showed up at the U.S. Swimming Championships pool on Tuesday, his white T-shirt did a lot of talking.

“If you have a lane,” it read across his chest.

“You have a shot,” across the back.

That’s been an issue for Lochte since he won four medals, three golds, at the season-climaxing World Championships in Barcelona last summer. Three months later, he tore his left MCL and sprained his ACL after a teenage girl ran to him, he caught her and they both fell on Nov. 2.

Lochte, who switched training bases from Gainesville, Fla., to Charlotte one month before the mishap, has raced sparingly since. He returned too quickly for a meet in February and then found out he retore the knee in April.

The fun-loving newly minted 30-year-old opened his pre-meet press conference with the following straight-faced statement:

“My knee has been hurting a lot lately, and I think I’m going to pull out of Nationals and just call it an end of the year,” he said, pausing only slightly for effect. “No, just joking.”

Lochte has his usual full slate of events lined up for the U.S. Championships beginning Wednesday, a qualifying meet for the the two biggest international meets between now and the Rio 2016 Olympics. Those are the Pan Pacific Championships, Aug. 21-24 in Gold Coast, Australia, and the 2015 World Championships in Kazan, Russia.

He’s entered in six events, including all four that Michael Phelps plans to swim.

Truthfully, Lochte said his knee is 100 percent. He raced at a meet in July for the first time in three months, swimming against Phelps in three finals and getting beaten by Phelps in all three.

That return came as a shock to doctors. Lochte wasn’t expected to get back into the pool until a couple weeks ago, but he’s been swimming for two months.

“They said I should be in like a science book because of the way I recovered so quickly,” Lochte said.

Lochte said in April that he considered retiring during grueling injury rehab and the toughest several-month stretch of his career, which spans three Olympics. It was Phelps’ return from a 20-month break that helped motivate him to come back.

Lochte expanded on the rough times Tuesday.

“My body is not getting any younger, I’m falling apart,” said Lochte, the sixth-oldest swimmer out of nearly 1,000 at this week’s meet. “So there was a lot of doubt of ever being the same swimmer, but you know, everything happens for a reason, and maybe this is a blessing in disguise. Maybe this is what I needed. Maybe this is the rest I needed going into 2016.”

Will Rio de Janeiro be ready for 2016 Olympics?

South, North Korea agree to form joint Olympic team, march together

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South Korea said the rival Koreas agreed to form their first joint Olympic team and have their athletes march together during the PyeongChang Olympic Opening Ceremony on Feb. 9.

Seoul’s Unification Ministry said the Koreas reached the agreement during talks Wednesday at the border village of Panmunjom.

It said athletes from the two Koreas will march together under a “unification flag” depicting their peninsula during the Opening Ceremony and will field a single women’s hockey team.

The measures require approval by the International Olympic Committee. The South Korean ministry says the two Koreas will consult with the IOC this weekend.

South Korea women’s hockey coach Sarah Murray said a joint team would be a distraction and present challenges, according to Yonhap News Agency.

“I think there is damage to our players,” the Canadian said Tuesday, according to Yonhap. “It’s hard because the players have earned their spots, and they think they deserve to go to the Olympics. Then you have people being added later. It definitely affects our players.

“This is another distraction, and we have to worry about things we can control. We can’t control this situation.

“Adding somebody so close to the Olympics is a little bit dangerous just for team chemistry because the girls have been together for so long. Teaching systems and different things … I’d have about a month to teach these (new) players the way our team plays. That makes me a little nervous.

“I hope that I am not being pressured to play (North Koreans). I am hoping we can just play the way we play and not have the influence of, ‘I need to play this player.’ I just want the best players to play. If you play your best, then you earn your ice time. Whether you’re South Korean or North Korean, they have to earn their place.”

The two Koreas marched together behind a unification flag at the Olympic Opening Ceremonies in 2000, 2004 and 2006.

North Korea boycotted the previous Olympics held in South Korea, the Summer Olympics in Seoul in 1988.

North Korea has no qualified athletes for the PyeongChang Olympics, but the IOC can invite athletes and could do so after this weekend’s meeting.

A pairs figure skating team qualified an Olympic quota spot for North Korea last fall, but the spot was given up after North Korea’s Olympic Committee did not accept the spot before a deadline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Larry Nassar hears testimony at sentencing: ‘You are a repulsive liar’

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — One after one, gymnasts and other victims of a disgraced former sports doctor stepped forward in a Michigan courtroom Tuesday to recount the sexual abuse and emotional trauma Larry Nassar inflicted on them as children — one with the warning that “little girls don’t stay little forever.”

Nearly 100 women and girls planned to speak or have their statements read during an extraordinary four-day sentencing hearing.

Many of them cried as they gave the initial testimonies Tuesday.

Some requested that their identities not be made public. The judge consoled the victims and said they should not blame themselves.

“I testified to let the world know that you are a repulsive liar,” one victim, Kyle Stephens, said to the 54-year-old Nassar who bowed his head with his eyes closed or looked away as she and others spoke.

Stephens, the first to speak, said Nassar repeatedly abused her from age 6 until age 12 during family visits to his home in Holt, near Lansing.

She said he rubbed his genitals on her and digitally penetrated her, among other things. She said Nassar later denied it, and her parents believed him.

“Perhaps you have figured it out by now, but little girls don’t stay little forever,” Stephens said. “They grow into strong women that … destroy your world.”

Nassar has pleaded guilty to molesting females with his hands at his Michigan State University office, his home and a Lansing-area gymnastics club.

He also worked for Indianapolis-based USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Another statement came from Donna Markham, who told of how her daughter Chelsey killed herself in 2009, years after Nassar sexually abused her during a medical examination.

“It all started with him,” she said, describing her daughter’s downward spiral into drug abuse.

Victims described experiencing “searing pain” during the assaults and having feelings of shame and embarrassment.

They said it had changed their life trajectories — affecting relationships, causing them to be distrustful and leading to depression, suicidal thoughts and anger and anxiety on whether they should have spoken up sooner.

“He touched the most innocent places on my body,” said 17-year-old Jessica Thomashaw, recounting how she was sexually assaulted at ages 9 and 12. “I couldn’t be just a normal girl anymore, and I forever lost a big piece of my childhood due to his abuse.”

Ingham County Circuit Judge Rosemarie Aquilina, who is expected to order a sentence Friday, said the system had failed them.

“You shouldn’t be angry with yourself,” she told a 31-year-old victim, who said she was assaulted almost 20 years ago. “You went to him for pain and healing, and you didn’t know. No one faults you or any other victim for that. You were a child.”

The Michigan attorney general’s office is seeking 40 to 125 years in prison for the 54-year-old Nassar.

The maximum represents a year for each of the 125 girls and women who filed reports of abuse with campus police. He already has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison for child pornography crimes.

Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles on Monday said she was among the athletes sexually abused by Nassar.

Another gold medalist, Aly Raisman, tweeted Monday that she would not attend the sentencing “because it is too traumatic for me. My impact letter will be read in court in front of Nassar. I support the brave survivors. We are all in this together.”

Olympians McKayla Maroney and Gabby Douglas also have said they were among Nassar’s victims as teens.

In November, he admitted to digitally penetrating 10 girls, mostly under the guise of treatment, between 1998 and 2015.

As part of plea deals in two adjacent Michigan counties, he said his conduct had no legitimate medical purpose and that he did not have the girls’ consent.

Nassar is scheduled to be sentenced in Eaton County in two weeks.