Jamaica women's bobsled

Jamaica (re)starts women’s bobsled team

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A Jamaican women’s bobsled team competed in an international race for what’s believed to be the first time in more than a decade on Thursday.

Driver KayMarie Jones and brakewoman Salcia Slack finished last out of 13 sleds that took two runs in a North American Cup event in Park City, Utah. They were 9.9 seconds behind the winner.

The “Cool Runnings” island nation diversified its bobsled program after sending a two-man team to the Sochi Olympics, a dozen years after its last Olympic men’s bobsled appearance and 26 years after its debut in Calgary.

Women’s bobsledders were recruited this summer by new head coach and technical director Todd Hays, a two-time U.S. Olympian. Hays hopes to field the first Jamaican Olympic women’s bobsled team at the 2018 Winter Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

“There’s no better challenge in the sport of bobsled than Jamaica with the athleticism that’s on the island,” said Hays, who led U.S. women’s bobsled from 2011 through the Sochi Olympics. “I hope I can round up enough talent to make a run at it.”

Two Jamaican women’s drivers took training runs in Park City last week, Jones and NaTalia Stokes. Stokes is the daughter of original Jamaican Olympic bobsled team member Chris Stokes. Chris Stokes was depicted by Doug E. Doug in the Disney film “Cool Runnings.”

NaTalia Stokes, who picked up bobsled last winter, before Hays was hired, opted not to race in Park City on Thursday to focus on school, Hays said.

Chris Stokes forecasted his daughter’s bobsled career in 2002, when NaTalia was 6 years old.

“Talia likes to wear my helmet,” he said, according to a Los Angeles Times story from 12 years ago. “Now that there’s women’s bobsled [debuting in the Olympics in 2002], I’d like to get a Jamaican women’s team together, too. Maybe we can have two generations of Stokes bobsledders.”

Jones, Slack and Stokes’ push athlete, Audra Segree, all have track and field backgrounds. Slack finished fifth in the heptathlon at the Commonwealth Games in July, when she was first contacted by Hays via Facebook.

Jones, 24, said she had never seen a bobsled, outside of in pictures or on video, until two weeks ago. But she was inspired by watching “Cool Runnings” as a girl.

“Ever since the movie I’ve wanted to drive,” Jones said. “It’s not too hard.”

No Jamaican women have competed in international bobsled since at least 2004, according to the International Bobsled Federation (FIBT).

The last Jamaican women’s bobsled team may have been the one that dissolved shortly before the 2002 Olympics.

Driver Porscha Morgan crashed in the first World Cup race of the 2001-02 season in Winterberg, Germany, and due to injury and lack of money, never competed again.

Morgan, reached by phone at her Norway home this week, said Jamaican officials were so sure she was going to make it to the 2002 Olympics that she had already been selected as the Opening Ceremony flag bearer, before her Winterberg crash.

That said, Morgan ranked No. 26 in the World Cup season standings in the year before the Olympics. The 2002 Olympic field included 15 bobsleds.

Morgan first learned of the Jamaican bobsled re-emergence last season when she watched the Sochi Olympic two-man bobsled on her Norway TV. Jamaica finished 29th out of 30. The Jamaican driver at the Sochi Olympics, 46-year-old Winston Watts, said he doesn’t expect to compete this season but hasn’t retired.

Hays is coaching younger Jamaican men, though.

Morgan, who visits Jamaica once a year, said she remembered seeing NaTalia Stokes when Stokes was a baby.

“I thought that they had given up on a women’s bobsled team,” Morgan said when informed of the new Jamaican team. “I’m extremely proud.”

Morgan’s biggest victories were World Push Championship titles in 2000 (televised by Eurosport) and 2001.

She moved to Norway for bobsled training more than a decade ago, married and has lived there ever since.

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Steve Penny, ex-USA Gymnastics president, arrested on charge of tampering with Larry Nassar evidence

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HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Former USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny was arrested Wednesday after a Texas grand jury indicted him, alleging he tampered with evidence in the sexual assault investigation of now-imprisoned gymnastics doctor Larry Nassar.

In a statement issued late Wednesday night, the Walker County district attorney’s office in Huntsville, Texas, said Penny was arrested by a fugitive task force in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and awaits extradition to Texas.

The third-degree felony is punishable by two to 10 years in prison. It was unclear if Penny has an attorney. Messages left with USA Gymnastics weren’t immediately returned.

Penny resigned under pressure in March 2017.

The indictment alleges Penny ordered the removal of documents from the Karolyi Ranch relating to Nassar’s activities at the ranch, near Huntsville. It alleges Penny acted after learning that Texas Rangers and Walker County authorities were investigating the ranch, which was being managed by USA Gymnastics.

The indictment states the documents were delivered to Penny at the USA Gymnastics headquarters in Indianapolis, they have not been recovered and their whereabouts are unknown to authorities.

Nassar was charged in June with sexually assaulting six minors in Walker County. A former sports medicine trainer, Debra Van Horn, was also indicted on one count of second-degree sexual assault of a child. Prosecutors said Van Horn was charged as “acting as a party” with Nassar.

In Michigan, Nassar was sentenced earlier this year to decades in prison, after hundreds of women and girls accused him of molesting them with his hands under the guise of medical treatment. They said the abuse went as far back as the 1990s while he worked at Michigan State University and USA Gymnastics, which trains Olympians.

Nassar was a former team doctor for both the women’s program at USA Gymnastics as well as Michigan State University athletics.

In Texas, a number of gymnasts who had trained at the Karolyi Ranch have said Nassar sexually assaulted them there. Walker County prosecutors have said there is no corroborated evidence of wrongdoing by world-renowned gymnastics coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, and the couple has denied wrongdoing.

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Kip Keino, Kenyan Olympic legend, hands himself over to police in corruption case

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Running great Kip Keino handed himself over to police in Kenya on Thursday and is under arrest, set to face charges of corruption and abuse of office that threaten the reputation of one of track and field’s most revered figures.

The 78-year-old Keino, former Kenyan sports minister Hassan Wario and two other former sports ministry officials surrendered to police to meet a 6 a.m. deadline.

They are due in court Friday to plead to the charges relating to the misuse of more than half a million dollars meant to fund Kenya’s team at the Rio Olympics. Keino was president of the Kenyan Olympic committee at the time.

Keino is a two-time Olympic champion, an honorary member of the International Olympic Committee and was one of the first athletes to be inducted into track and field’s half of fame in 2012.

He was the forerunner for generations of Kenyan distance-running champions, winning the 1500m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

He is accused of playing a role in the misappropriation of more than $545,000 of government money set aside for Kenyan athletes at the Rio Games two years ago. Keino and six other current and former Olympic and government officials were accused by prosecutors of the embezzlement of more than $200,000 and misuse of more than $300,000.

Relating to the misuse, prosecutors allege the seven wasted more than $150,000 on unused air tickets to Rio, overpaid allowances amounting to nearly $150,000, and incurred tens of thousands of dollars of other expenditure on “unauthorized persons” — people who were not Olympic officials or athletes.

The Daily Nation newspaper in Kenya reported that Keino will be charged with giving his son nearly $25,000 of Team Kenya’s money for an air ticket to Brazil and spending money in Rio. The exact charges against the four who reported to police Thursday morning will be published when they appear in court.

Three other officials, current Olympic committee secretary general Francis Kinyili Paul, Rio team manager Stephen Arap Soi and former sports ministry official Richard Ekai, appeared in court Monday. They were charged with multiple counts of corruption and abuse of office. They pleaded not guilty and were granted bail, with a judge saying the trial of all seven would start Nov. 16.

Keino, possibly Kenya’s most respected sportsman, handed himself over to police at about 5.30 a.m., the Daily Nation reported, to beat the deadline.

Wario is a former member of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet and now the ambassador to Austria, meaning the corruption case reaches upper levels of the government. Ekai, his former sports ministry colleague, was recently appointed Kenyan ambassador to Russia.

Details of a chaotic Kenyan Olympic trip emerged in 2016, with allegations of joy riders being given thousands of dollars in allowances and hundreds of thousands of dollars and equipment meant for Kenyan athletes disappearing.

Despite that, Kenya finished second in the track medals table and had its most successful Olympics.

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