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Former track star? Nope, this bobsledder played football

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Aja Evans. Lolo Jones. Ryan Bailey. They all have one thing in common: they took their skills from the track to the bobsled slope. The 2018 U.S. bobsled team is stocked with former track stars (see Evans, Bailey and Chris Kinney), but another squad member is crossing over from another sport — Sam McGuffie got his start on the football field.

McGuffie, who’s high school football reel is filled with outlandish highlights, played collegiately at the University of Michigan and Rice University, and was signed by the Oakland Raiders in 2013. He was subsequently waived, but had stints on the practice squad for the Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots. The bobsled was calling his name, though. By 2015, he was a member of the USA Bobsled National Team.

NBCOlympics.com: 2018 U.S. Olympic bobsled team

He will be on both the two-man and four-man bobsled teams for Team USA starting February 18 as a crewman for pilot Codie Bascue. He’s not the only former football player on the roster — Carlo Valdez played at UCLA. But McGuffie player has been turning heads within the bobsled community in the lead up to PyeongChang thanks to his athleticism — and it seems he’s a perfect fit for the sledding world.

“He insanely gifted,” Bascue said. “He is also the most natural athlete I have ever seen.”

McGuffie has been showing off that athleticism since he was hurdling would-be tacklers on the football field not that long ago. He knows his quickness that he honed in football is a good thing. “When you are a running back,” he told reporters on a conference call in January, “you have to explode through the hole. That’s what I do in bobsled.”

“He’s like a cheetah,” U.S. bobsled head coach Brian Shimer said. “He just steps up and is about as explosive of a guy as I’ve ever seen.”

McGuffie is even drawing comparisons to one of bobsled’s biggest stars: Aja Evans. In fact, the Olympic bronze medalist compared McGuffie to herself. “I feel like he is the male version of me with his explosiveness and dynamic power,” she said. “To watch him do so many things with that pop and power is pretty cool.”

NBCOlympics.com: Meet Team USA’s bodybuilder-turned-bobsledder

Like Evans, who was a five-time All-American on the track for the University of Illinois, McGuffie was on the track team in college, too. While football was his specialty, he competed in everything from the 60-meter hurdles to the pole vault. He’s hoping he can be like her on one more way, too: by winning an Olympic medal. Team USA won four medals in the bobsled in Sochi, three bronze and one silver.

No matter the result, McGuffie is already looking to the future, and how he could possibly make another team — this time in the 2020 Summer Games in rugby. “The next Summer Games is in Tokyo,” he said. “It would be kinda cool if I can do that.

It wouldn’t be a surprise to his bobsled brethren.

“We are glad that we can have him,” Valdes said. “He definitely still has NFL potential if he still wanted to do that. Or if he wanted to do something else, he would probably be good at that, too. Like rugby.”

Seth Rubinroit contributed reporting to this story. 

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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