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Michael Phelps has strong feelings about new Olympic swimming events

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NEW YORK — Michael Phelps is glad for gender equality in his sport, but overall he’s not supportive of adding swimming events to the Olympics.

Last week, the IOC announced it added the men’s 800m freestyle, women’s 1500m freestyle and a mixed-gender 4x100m medley relay to the Olympics for 2020.

Swimming’s international governing body also hoped to have 50m events in backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly added, but those were rejected even though they are already on the world championships program.

Phelps supported having women able to race the 1500m free at the Olympics, which the men have done for more than 100 years.

But ensuring gender equality for Tokyo 2020 also meant adding the men’s 800m free to match the women’s 800m free, which has been on the program since 1968.

Adding events to the Olympics “takes away from the sport,” Phelps said in Manhattan at an appearance for Krave Jerky on Thursday. He hopes the 50m backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly remain off the Olympic program.

“What else are we going to add? Are we going to do, like, 75m frees? How many other events are we going to add?” he said. “It’s just like what we had in 2009, after world championships, having those high-tech suits [that were banned in 2010]. It’s not swimming anymore. We’ve had this event schedule for so long, and now we’re just going to pick and choose what events we want? I could go into more detail, but I’m really not going to. It’s a touchy subject. I hope swimming takes the turn for the right direction, and we continue to grow.

“When you add something like an 800m for men and a 1500m for women, and you’re adding mixed relays and 50s of strokes. I don’t want to say it, but it seems like there’s too much going on. It seems like, so then we’re going to grow the team by a handful of other people? I don’t like it. I don’t think it’s what swimming has been through all of this time, and hopefully we don’t have it for too long, but it’s not in my power. I can’t really do anything. I’ll just sit and watch.”

The added events give Katie Ledecky at least one more medal shot in Tokyo, leading to wonder how close she could get to Phelps’ record-tying eight medals at one Olympics (and all gold, his record alone). Ledecky won five golds with the same program at the 2015 World Championships and added the 4x100m freestyle relay for Rio, where she took silver.

Phelps said he doesn’t care if somebody matches or breaks his medal records with the aid of events that weren’t on the Olympic program during his career.

“It’s good to have somebody out there that is willing to challenge himself in a way that they had no idea,” Phelps said. “So if they have a chance to do something great like that, then I would love to see it.”

Ledecky’s more realistic hope in 2020 is to match the female record of six golds at one Olympics. Still, some are already talking eight.

“It’s great to be able to see Katie potentially go for eight,” Phelps said. “I think it’s great to see different events added for Katie because then you can really challenge where her limit is. … Then you bring a lot more excitement to the sport from a marketing standpoint.”

Phelps never would have raced an 800m freestyle at a major meet, but given his 100m butterfly prowess would have been a prime candidate for a mixed medley relay. And he does have experience racing against women.

He swam the leadoff leg of the 2007 Duel in the Pool mixed 4x100m freestyle relay against Australia. Phelps clocked 48.72, while Trickett swam 52.99, at the time the fastest 100m ever by a woman. It was not ratified as a world record because it came in a race with men.

In April 2015, Phelps famously (jokingly) challenged Katie Ledecky to a race on-air at a meet. They had swum the exact same time in separate 400m freestyle heats that day within about a half-hour of each other.

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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.