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The early bird: Breaking down late night action in PyeongChang

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If you were asleep anytime between midnight and 6:00a.m. EST in the United States, then it’s fair to say that you probably missed a couple of events in PyeongChang. Here at OlympicTalk, we’ll take you through the evening’s stories and results.  Sweden’s Charlotte Kalla won the first gold medal of the Olympic Games, as she cruised in the final four kilometers of the women’s skiathlon. But perhaps the bigger story of that race belongs to the silver medalist: Marit Bjorgen. By reaching the podium in the skiiathlon, the Norwegian has officially become the most successful female Winter Olympian.

Watch: Marit Bjorgen makes Olympic history

Snowboarding: USA’s Gerard emerges as serious contender

It was a big day for Norway and Canada as the two nations continue to dominate the sport. Norway and Canada combine for eight of 12 slopestyle finalists.

In Heat 1, it was all about X Games champion Markus Cleveland as he overcame a poor Heat 1 performance to land atop the standings. He was joined by compatriots Mons Roisland and Torgeir Bergrem.

Heat 2 provided some of the biggest names in the sport with Mark McMorris and Max Parrot of Canada leading the standings. Team USA’s Red Gerard took one step closer to being one of the youngest American Olympic medalists, finishing third. Meanwhile, Belgium’s Seppe Smits barely held onto the final qualification spot.

With the two giants of the sport competing, and with Gerard looking to steal their thunder, the slopestyle final is bound to be dramatic.

Watch snowboarding recaps and highlights

Ice Hockey: Sweden hold off Japan

The Japanese women’s ice hockey team proved to be an unexpected challenge for Sweden. This is only the third time that the island nation qualified for the Winter Olympics (1998, 2014), and only scored a single goal in Sochi. Known for being a doormat team for the other competitors, Japan seemed to turn the switch after conceding within the first three minutes of their opening game.

Rather than fold, the Japanese were able to withstand the pressure put on by the Swedes and were eventually able to squeak the puck past GK Sarah Grann late in the second period to draw level. The second intermission gave Sweden an opportunity to regroup following Japan’s sudden pressure, and managed to grab another early goal in the third period off a tight angle by Sarah Hjalmarsson. Japan’s Women’s hockey team eyes next step 

Cross Country Skiing: Diggins in fifth as Kalla claims first PyeongChang gold

Norway’s Marit Bjoergen led the field in the first 7.5km of the skiathlon, pushing the pace up through the transition into the ski change. Swede Charlotte Kalla made a bursting move from the pack around the 12km mark, creating a nine second gap between her and the 10 time Olympic medalist. Kalla’s stunning move at the 12km mark proved to be the decisive break that was necessary to defeat the legendary Norwegian skiier, as Kalla won with a time of 40:44:9.

America’s Jessie Diggins finished fifth, 14.7 second behind the leader.

Freestyle Skiing

Qualifying continued for the men’s moguls, with Michael Kingsbury cementing his place as the man to beat for the competition.

Short Track

18 year-old Maame Biney advanced out of her 500m heat with a time of 43.665 seconds. She will be joining Britain’s Elise Christie, who posted a new Olympic Record time of 42.872 seconds.

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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MORE: Full transcript of McKayla Maroney’s first comments since Larry Nassar case

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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