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Mikaela Shiffrin takes spotlight as world championships hit final weekend

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Mikaela Shiffrin waited out the first nine days of the world championships. Now, she gets to race for gold.

Shiffrin is a medal favorite in the giant slalom on Thursday and the gold-medal favorite in the slalom on Saturday, live on NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app from St. Moritz, Switzerland.

Thursday
Giant Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Giant Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. ET (NBCSN, NBCSports.com/live)

Saturday
Slalom Run 1 — 3:45 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Slalom Run 2 — 7 a.m. ET (NBCSports.com/live)
Slalom Highlights — 12:30 p.m. ET (NBC)

The U.S. owns one medal so far from the first seven events at worlds — a downhill bronze from Lindsey Vonn — but Shiffrin is expected to lift the American team in the remaining technical events.

Three women in Thursday’s giant slalom field have won World Cup giant slaloms this season — France’s Tessa Worley (three victories), Shiffrin (two) and Italian Federica Brignone (one). One of the pre-event medal favorites, Swiss Lara Gut, is out after tearing her left ACL on Friday.

Shiffrin, who owns 25 World Cup slalom wins, picked up her first outright World Cup GS victories this season on back-to-back days in Semmering, Austria. She has finished sixth or better in all seven World Cup GS races this season, consistency only Worley can match.

It bodes well for Shiffrin to improve on her previous major GS results — sixth at the 2013 Worlds, fifth at the 2014 Olympics and eighth at the 2015 Worlds at home in Vail, Colo.

“I’m a lot more confident in my GS than I was going into Vail,” she said earlier this month. “My slalom, I guess my confidence level is about the same.”

The slalom is Shiffrin’s bread and butter. On Saturday, she can become the second woman to win three world slalom titles and the first since 1939.

Starting with the 2015 World Championships, Shiffrin won 15 straight slaloms until a DNF on Jan. 3. She’s won and finished third in two slaloms since.

Shiffrin also goes into these two worlds races well prepared, following an extended period of training. She opted to skip the super-G last Tuesday and the super combined on Friday in St. Moritz to spend more time working on her slalom and giant slalom in practice.

“My main events are GS and slalom right now, and I feel like I can use this block of training to power through world champs, but also set me up for more success at the end of the season with the rest of the World Cup,” Shiffrin said before worlds.

Shiffrin is all but guaranteed more success in the final month of the World Cup season. She leads the standings for the World Cup overall title, the biggest annual prize in the sport, by 180 points over Gut, who is out for the season.

The next-closest racer is 414 points behind, the gap equivalent of four wins. With only 11 races left, Shiffrin is poised to become the third U.S. woman to win the overall title after Tamara McKinney and Vonn.

VIDEO: Roger Federer takes in world champs with Lindsey Vonn

Ex-USA Gymnastics doctor faces at least 25 years in prison

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DETROIT (AP) — A sports doctor accused of molesting several girls while working for USA Gymnastics and Michigan State University will plead guilty to multiple charges of sexual assault and face at least 25 years in prison, a person with knowledge of the agreement said Tuesday.

The person was not authorized to publicly discuss the agreement ahead of a Wednesday court hearing for Dr. Larry Nassar in Michigan’s Ingham County and spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity.

Nassar, 54, is charged with molesting seven girls, all but one of whom were gymnasts, mostly under the guise of treatment at his Lansing-area home and a campus clinic. He’s facing similar charges in a neighboring county and lawsuits filed by more than 125 women and girls.

Olympians Aly Raisman and McKayla Maroney are among the women who have publicly said they were among Nassar’s victims.

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.

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.

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

Gabby Douglas: ‘We were abused by Larry Nassar’

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Gabby Douglas is the third member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team to say she was abused by then-USA Gymnastics team doctor Larry Nassar.

“It would be like saying that because of the leotards we wore, it was our fault that we were abused by Larry Nassar,” was part of a post on Douglas’ Instagram on Tuesday apologizing for a Friday tweet that generated criticism. “I didn’t publicly share my experiences as well as many other things because for years we were conditioned to stay silent and honestly some things were extremely painful.”

They marked Douglas’ first public comments about Nassar since many gymnasts said starting last year that the doctor sexually abused them under the guise of medical treatment.

It wasn’t totally clear from her post whether Douglas, the 2012 Olympic all-around champion, said she was abused, but one of her representatives confirmed it, according to multiple reports.

Douglas’ post came four days after her comment on teammate Aly Raisman‘s tweet generated criticism (see below).

Raisman said two weeks ago that she was sexually abused by Nassar while on the national team.

A third 2012 Olympian, McKayla Maroney, said last month that she was sexually abused by Nassar during her national-team career.

Nassar is in jail in Michigan awaiting sentencing after pleading guilty to possession of child pornography.

He’s also awaiting trial on separate criminal sexual conduct charges and has been sued by more than 125 women alleging abuse.

Nassar pleaded not guilty to the assault charges but is expected to change pleas to guilty Wednesday and on Nov. 29 in bids to close criminal cases against him.

“We are appalled by the conduct of which Larry Nassar is accused, and we are very sorry that any athlete has been harmed during her or his gymnastics career,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement last week. “Aly’s passion and concern for athlete safety is shared by USA Gymnastics. Our athletes are our priority, and we are committed to promoting an environment of empowerment that encourages speaking up, especially on difficult topics like abuse, as well the protection of athletes at all levels throughout our gymnastics community.”

Douglas last competed at the Rio Olympics and has not publicly said whether she will return to competition.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

please hear my heart

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