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Karolyis named in sex abuse lawsuit against ex-USA Gymnastics doctor

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — The latest lawsuit accusing a former USA Gymnastics doctor of sexually abusing a longtime member of the U.S. women’s national team is the first to name renowned husband-and-wife coaches Bela and Martha Karolyi, alleging they turned a blind eye to molestations.

The lawsuit, filed Thursday in Los Angeles, does not provide specifics about what the Karolyis were allegedly told about the abuse, just that they knew about it and did nothing to stop it.

The Karolyis did not return messages seeking comment.

The civil lawsuit, filed by the now 24-year-old former gymnast, claims Dr. Larry Nassar repeatedly sexually abused her when she was on the national team from 2006 to 2011.

Nassar’s attorney didn’t respond to messages Thursday but his lawyer has previously vehemently denied abuse allegations by two other gymnasts. Nassar hasn’t been criminally charged.

The lawsuit accuses the Karolyis of creating a toxic environment that allowed the alleged abuse to thrive at their ranch north of Houston, where gymnasts would stay in bungalows while receiving individual instruction from the national staff and medical attention from Nassar.

“Everyone left and went back to the house and left Larry Nassar alone with a bunch of little girls,” said John Manly, the attorney representing the gymnast who filed Thursday’s lawsuit.

“There are a lot of former national team members who are gutted emotionally,” he said.

The Karolyis and the current and former presidents of USA Gymnastics “had knowledge of inappropriate conduct and molestations committed by (Nassar) before and during his employment, yet chose to allow him to remain unsupervised where he sexually abused plaintiff,” according to the lawsuit.

Manly declined to discuss specifics about the allegation that the Karolyis knew of the abuse, saying it would only help their case.

The lawsuit also accuses the Karolyis of their own abusive behavior, saying they would hit gymnasts, scratch them until they bled, deprive them of food and water, belittle their physical appearance and cut them off from contact with their parents. That environment opened the door for Nassar to groom the girls by acting like an ally and sneaking them treats, according to the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also says the current and former presidents of USA Gymnastics, Steve Penny and Robert Colarossi, “oversaw a wide-ranging, calculated concealment of numerous instances, complaints and allegations of sexual abuse and misconduct.”

Penny and Colarossi ignored abuse allegations against Nassar to maintain the reputation of USA Gymnastics, the lawsuit alleges.

USA Gymnastics, also named in the lawsuit and speaking on behalf of Penny and Colarossi, denied the allegations and called the claims against Nassar troubling.

The Indiana-based governing body previously said that it cut ties with Nassar when Penny went to authorities immediately after learning of athlete concerns about Nassar in the summer of 2015.

The lawsuit echoes allegations against Nassar filed by other women in another California lawsuit last month. It says Nassar digitally penetrated the gymnast without gloves under the guise of performing what he called an “intravaginal adjustment.”

Manly, the attorney representing the gymnast, said at least 20 other women have come forward with abuse allegations against Nassar connected to his work at Michigan State University’s sports medicine clinic and are considering filing lawsuits.

The allegations date back to 1996, the same year he was hired by USA Gymnastics.

Though U.S. gymnastics became the most dominant women’s program on the planet under the Karolyis, the couple’s coaching methods have not been immune to criticism.

Dominique Moceanu, a member of the 1996 Olympic team, claimed the Karolyis were verbally, emotionally and physically abusive to her at times during her elite career, criticizing Moceanu for her weight and body type, among other things.

MORE: Michigan State fires Nassar after sexual abuse accusations

Rewind: Australia’s Steven Bradbury gains gold and lasting fame after pileup takes out Apolo Ohno

Steven Bradbury
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Heading into the 2002 Winter Olympics, young American Apolo Ohno was a phenom with a legitimate shot at multiple medals in short-track speedskating.

The 1999 world junior champion and future “Dancing with the Stars” champion had finished first in the World Cup season standings in all three individual disciplines in the 2000-01 season. In the 2001 world championships, he took gold in the relay and the 3,000m (a non-Olympic event), silver in the 1,000m and fourth in the 1,500m.

Australia’s Steven Bradbury was at the other end of his career, enduring all sorts of misfortune in the years that followed — a 1995 accident in which he needed more than 100 stitches after a skate blade sliced his thigh, then a 2000 accident in which he broke two vertebra in his neck. 

The highlights of Bradbury’s career were relay world championships medals — gold in 1991, bronze in 1993, silver in 1994. He and his relay teammates also took Olympic bronze in 1994.

Bradbury barely advanced to one individual final, the 1,000m in 2002. He advanced from the quarterfinal when Canadian favorite Marc Gagnon was disqualified. He advanced from the semifinal when multiple skaters fell.

In the final, Bradbury was matched up against three outstanding skaters, including Ohno and Li Jiajun of China, who won this event and the overall title at the 2001 world championships. Ohno and Li had finished 1-2 in the 1,000m World Cup standings in 2001.

Bradbury couldn’t keep up. The other four skaters were in a pack, making dangerous passes among each other, while Bradbury fell further and further behind.

Those dangerous passes finally caught up to the rest of the field in the final turn. Li bumped into Ohno, which would lead to Li’s disqualification. After the lead pack jockeyed for position through the entire race, all four tumbled to the ice.

Bradbury, the last man standing, crossed the finish line first.

 

From the tangled pile-up, Ohno managed to fling himself, skate-first, across the finish line to take silver. Canada’s Mathieu Turcotte made it across for bronze.

Ohno wasn’t done in Salt Lake City. He won the 1,500m gold after the disqualification of Kim Dong-Sung, a controversial decision that made Ohno the object of South Korean derision.

Less controversially, Ohno won three more individual world championship events from 2005 to 2009, plus two relay golds, and the overall world title in 2008. In the Olympics, he took six more medals, including gold in the 500m in 2006 and silver in the 1,500m in 2010.

Bradbury missed the finals in the other two events in Salt Lake City, but his name lives on in the Urban Dictionary and elsewhere as a synonym for an improbable and even accidental victory. He embraced his unique place in history to carve out a career as a motivational speaker delivering more than 1,000 speeches in 19 countries, according to the International Skating Union and has even seen his win commemorated in Legos.

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Alexa Knierim, Brandon Frazier form new figure skating pair

Brandon Frazier
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A few weeks after her husband and skating partner, Chris Knierim, stepped away from competitive figure skating, Alexa Scimeca Knierim has a new partner.

Brandon Frazier, who was also looking for someone to form a new pair after longtime partner Haven Denney stepped away from competition, at least temporarily, will join Scimeca Knierim on the ice whenever they’re able to train and compete again.

Frazier is a longtime friend of Chris Knierem. Scimeca Knierim told U.S. Figure Skating’s FanZone that Frazier had played a pivotal role in kindling the Knierem’s off-ice romance.

Denney and Frazier won the U.S. championship in 2017 and finished 20th in the world championships that year. They finished third in their two Grand Prix assignments last fall — Skate America and the Internationaux de France. They were runners-up in the 2019 U.S. championships and fifth this year, when they revived their “Lion King” free skate.

The Denney-Frazier pair took an unusual path to figure skating, starting as roller skaters.

The Knierims won their third U.S. championship in January but handed their slot in the world championships to Jessica Calalang and Brian Johnson when Chris Knierim, struggling with his form and depression, decided he was unable to continue beyond the Four Continents Championship. The world championships were later canceled due to the spread of the coronavirus.

READ: Resilient Knierims withdraw from world championships

The couple had earned attention for their romance and for their inspirational returns from illness and injury. Their U.S. championship win earlier this year was their third.

Skate America, the first event on the Grand Prix circuit, is scheduled to start Oct. 23 in Las Vegas.

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