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Four years later, Chloe Kim doesn’t regret missing Sochi

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In 2014, Chloe Kim was relegated to a footnote in the Olympic history books.

Her absence from the Sochi Games was noteworthy. Had she been allowed to compete, she might have won a medal. There was one problem though: She was too young.

Official rules stated that competitors for snowboard halfpipe must have turned at least 15 years old by the end of 2013. Kim was just 13, though she was already one of the best halfpipe riders in the world.

As a result, many people lamented the idea that the Olympics would go on without her. Kim admits that she, too, was disappointed at the time.

Now she sees it as a blessing in disguise.

“Now that I think about it, I’m really glad I wasn’t able to go,” Kim told NBC Olympics last year. “I don’t think I would’ve been able to take it, to handle the pressure. Emotionally I don’t think I was ready.

“There’s obviously such a huge difference between 13 and 17. Like, when I was 13, what did I do? Get my nails done and do maybe two or three contests a year. I feel like a lot’s changed. And I didn’t have much experience when it came to a lot of media pressure and sponsors, all that stuff. But now I kind of know, I’ve kind of been through it all. So I think I’ll be a little more prepared for things.”

NBCOlympics.com: More on Chloe Kim

Instead of competing in Sochi, Kim watched the event while sitting on her couch and eating ice cream.

This time in PyeongChang, she’ll be a participant. And the expectations will be high.

Kim, who is a first-generation Korean-American, is not just expected to win the gold medal — she’s expected to be a breakout star. A number of Olympic sponsors have made her a cornerstone of their activations, and she’s been featured heavily in NBC’s lead-up marketing, even starring in her own Super Bowl commercial.

When it comes to tricks, Kim is a step ahead of the field. She’s had the frontside 1080 dialed in for a number of years, but her main focus this season has been cleaning up the switch version of that trick (which is called a “cab 1080”).

Two years ago, Kim became the first woman to land back-to-back 1080s — she did a frontside 1080 on one wall of the halfpipe, followed by a cab 1080 on the other wall — in a competition run. She remains the only woman to successfully execute that combo.

She’s been able to win numerous contests since then without that second 1080 in her run, but with many of her competitors suddenly stepping up their game and learning the frontside 1080 before PyeongChang, Kim dusted off the back-to-back 10s again last month at X Games Aspen.

The result: her third gold medal in four years at the event.

Kim will now try to carry that momentum over to the PyeongChang Olympics, where a U.S. medal sweep is a very real possibility. Teammates Arielle Gold, Maddie Mastro and Kelly Clark went second, third and fourth behind Kim at X Games.

“I think about it all the time,” Kim said with a laugh when asked if she ever lets herself envision what it would be like to stand atop the Olympic podium. “Honestly, I think I’ll probably just be bawling my eyes the whole time.”

USA Gymnastics settles sex abuse lawsuit

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — USA Gymnastics has reached a confidential settlement in a Georgia lawsuit that spurred a newspaper investigation into the organization’s practices for reporting child abuse.

A former gymnast filed the lawsuit against USA Gymnastics in 2013, alleging that the organization that trains Olympians received at least four warnings about coach William McCabe, who videotaped her in various states of undress.

The lawsuit revealed that USA Gymnastics wouldn’t forward child sex abuse allegations to authorities unless they were in writing and signed by a victim or a victim’s parent.

A judge in Effingham County, Georgia, dismissed the lawsuit on April 12, according to court records. USA Gymnastics admits no wrongdoing or liability in the settlement, said W. Brian Cornwell of Cornwell & Stevens LLP, the gymnast’s lawyer.

Both parties have declined to comment on the settlement.

“We want to make it clear that the settlement does not prevent the former gymnast from speaking publicly about her experiences,” USA Gymnastics said in a statement Thursday.

McCabe pleaded guilty in Georgia in 2006 to federal charges of sexual exploitation of children and making false statements. He’s serving a 30-year prison sentence.

The suit sparked The Indianapolis Star’s investigation of USA Gymnastics, which exposed abuse by Larry Nassar, a former Michigan State University sports doctor, and spurred the resignations of the organization’s president and board.

Nassar, 54, pleaded guilty to molesting patients and possessing child pornography. He was sentenced this year to prison terms that will keep him locked up for life after roughly 200 women gave statements against him in two courtrooms over 10 days.

USA Gymnastics faces additional lawsuits from women who say Nassar sexually abused them. The suits allege the organization was negligent, fraudulent and intentionally inflicted emotional distress by failing to warn or protect athletes from Nassar’s abuse. The organization has denied the allegations and wants the lawsuits dismissed.

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Max Aaron retires from figure skating

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Max Aaron, a national champion and Skate America winner, has retired from competitive figure skating.

Aaron, 26, ends his career as the only Skate America men’s winner not to compete in an Olympics. He is one of three U.S. men’s champions in the last 55 years not to compete in an Olympics, along with Ryan Bradley and Rudy Galindo.

“Of course, becoming an Olympian, or having an Olympic medal would have been great to say, ride off on my white horse, but having the ability to say that I have no regrets in my entire career of figure skating, for me that is my gold medal,” Aaron said Thursday night.

Aaron, a former top USA Hockey developmental player, also figure skated growing up to help with his skating skills as one of the smaller players on his team.

He stopped playing hockey at 16 due to a broken vertebra but continued full-time with figure skating. By 2012, Aaron considered quitting figure skating after placing eighth at nationals (one year after being U.S. junior champion) and being told he wasn’t artistic enough.

But Aaron kept with it and completed a remarkable bounce back the next year, winning the U.S. title and setting himself up as a favorite to make the 2014 Olympic team.

But Aaron ended up third at the 2014 U.S. Championships. The two Sochi Olympic spots went to Jeremy Abbott and Jason Brown.

Aaron continued, becoming the first U.S. man to win Skate America in six years in 2015 and topping the short program at the 2016 U.S. Championships before ultimately finishing second to Adam Rippon.

Aaron plummeted to ninth at the 2017 U.S. Championships, coming back from offseason hernia surgery, but returned to the Olympic team radar last fall with a personal-best free skate at Cup of China, including three landed quadruple jumps. He went into the 2018 U.S. Championships ranking third among American men for the season.

But Aaron was again ninth at nationals, missing the Olympic team. He was called on to compete at last month’s world championships as the third alternate after Rippon, Ross Miner and Brown all passed.

Aaron had stopped skating and instead was training for a triathlon. He went to worlds in Milan on two weeks of training and finished 11th, a result that helped the U.S. keep three men’s spots for 2019 Worlds. Nathan Chen won the world title, but Vincent Zhou was 14th. The U.S. needed its second man to be 12th or better to go along with Chen’s first place to ensure three spots next year. Aaron reportedly said at worlds that it may have been his last competition.

Aaron said he’s started a job with Merrill Lynch.

“It’s really been a great ride. I have no regrets,” he said. “That’s one thing that I always told myself, in sport, in life, I want to have no regrets, and I can honestly say, with the help from my coaches and friends, that I have no regrets in the sport.”

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