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World champion gymnast sues Karolyis, others over Larry Nassar abuse

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HOUSTON (AP) — A former member of the U.S. national team on Tuesday became the latest gymnast to file suit over sexual abuse by imprisoned former sports doctor Larry Nassar’s, alleging USA Gymnastics, the U.S. Olympic Committee and the husband-and-wife duo who coached America’s top female gymnasts for three decades failed to protect her and other athletes.

Sabrina Vega, who was on the team that won a gold medal at the 2011 World Championships, alleges the organizations along with Bela and Martha Karolyi ignored signs about Nassar’s behavior or should have known he posed a risk to the gymnasts he treated.

Vega alleges that during medical treatments, Nassar molested her hundreds of times from 2008, when she 12 years old, until 2012, during competitions and while she trained at the Karolyi Ranch. The ranch is located outside of Huntsville, about 70 miles north of Houston. Vega’s lawsuit was filed in state district court in Huntsville.

“I have struggled to cope with the effects of the repeated abuse I suffered at the hands of Dr. Nassar. USA Gymnastics, the USOC and the Karolyis failed to protect me and the other athletes in their care and I believe they should be held accountable,” the 22-year-old Vega said in a statement.

Vega, who now competes as a gymnast for the University of Georgia, said Nassar’s abuse has caused her depression, panic attacks and anxiety, which have become worse as Nassar’s case has become widely publicized.

In a statement, USA Gymnastics said it doesn’t comment on pending litigation but the organization is “committed to creating a culture that empowers and supports our athletes and focuses on our highest priority, which is the safety and well-being of our athletes.”

U.S. Olympic Committee spokesman Patrick Sandusky said in a statement that Nassar’s “reprehensible behavior” has no place “in our Olympic and Paralympic community” and that the organization “has made significant progress to strengthen protections for athletes, and we recognize that our work is never done.”

An attorney for the Karolyis didn’t immediately reply to emails or calls seeking comment Tuesday.

The Houston Chronicle reported Tuesday the Karolyis had quietly filed a lawsuit last month in Huntsville against USA Gymnastics and the U.S. Olympic Committee, seeking more than $1 million in damages. The lawsuit says the couple didn’t know about Nassar’s “reprehensible conduct” and would have reported it if there had been any suspicions about him.

In an interview with “Dateline NBC” that aired last month, Martha Karolyi said she feels for Nassar’s victims but added she doesn’t believe she should be held responsible for his actions.

More than 250 women and girls say Nassar, who worked for USA Gymnastics, sexually assaulted them under the guise of treatment. He’s now serving up to 175 years in prison for molesting women and girls and possessing child pornography.

Several gymnasts have said Nassar abused them at the ranch, which served as the training ground for U.S. women’s gymnastics. Vega alleges in her suit the Karolyis allowed Nassar to enter the cabins of female gymnasts alone and unsupervised to perform his training techniques.

The ranch is being investigated by the Texas Rangers and the Walker County Sheriff’s Office. USA Gymnastics cut ties with the ranch in January.

Vega’s lawsuit is the second filed in Texas in the last few weeks related to the abuse scandal. Last month, Rebecca Whitehurst, a former Texas gymnast who had been a member of the USA Gymnastics team filed suit in Houston, alleging Nassar abused her in 1996 when she was 15 years old.

Mark Spitz takes on Katie Ledecky’s challenge

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Swimmers around the world took on Katie Ledecky‘s milk-glass challenge since it became a social media sensation, including one of the few Americans with more Olympic gold medals.

Mark Spitz, who won seven golds at the 1972 Munich Games, took 10 strokes in an at-home pool while perfectly balancing a glass of what appeared to be water on his head.

“Would’ve been faster with the ‘stache, @markspitzusa, but I still give this 7 out of 7 gold medals,” Ledecky tweeted.

Spitz joined fellow Olympic champions Susie O’Neill of Australia and American Matt Grevers in posting similar videos to what Ledecky first shared Monday.

In Tokyo next year, Ledecky can pass Spitz’s career gold-medal count of nine if she wins all of her expected events — 200m, 400m, 800m and 1500m freestyles and the 4x200m free relay.

Then she would trail one athlete from any country in any sport — Michael Phelps, the 23-time gold medalist who has yet to post video of swimming while balancing a glass on his head.

MORE: Spitz puts Michael Phelps’ career in perspective

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Serena Williams, reclusive amid pandemic, returns to tennis eyeing Grand Slam record

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Serena Williams travels with “like 50 masks” and has been a little bit of a recluse since early March and the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I don’t have full lung capacity, so I’m not sure what would happen to me,” Williams said Saturday, two days before the start of the WTA’s Top Seed Open in Lexington, Ky., her first tournament since playing Fed Cup in early February. “I’m sure I’ll be OK, but I don’t want to find out.”

Williams, 38, has a history of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms. She faced life-threatening complications following her Sept. 1, 2017, childbirth that confined her to a bed for six weeks. She said her daily routine was surgery and that she lost count after the first four.

More recently, Williams enjoyed “every part” of the last six months at home in Florida, her longest time grounded since her teens.

“I’ve been a little neurotic, to an extent,” on health and safety, she said. “Everyone in the Serena bubble is really protected.”

Williams is entered to play next week in Lexington and at consecutive tournaments in New York City later this month — the Western & Southern Open and U.S. Open, the latter starting Aug. 31.

Williams is the highest-ranked player in the Lexington field at No. 9. Others include 2017 U.S. Open champion Sloane Stephens, older sister Venus Williams and 16-year-old Coco Gauff.

She has been bidding ever since having daughter Olympia to tie Margaret Court‘s record 24 Grand Slam singles titles, albeit many of Court’s crowns came before the Open Era and, notably at the Australian Open, against small fields lacking the world’s best players. Williams reached the last two Wimbledon and U.S. Open finals, losing all of them.

She showed her seriousness in committing early to this year’s U.S. Open by installing a court at home with the same surface. Three of the top 10 female singles players already said they will skip the U.S. Open due to travel and/or virus concerns, including No. 1 Ash Barty.

“Tennis is naturally a socially distanced sport, so it was kind of easy to go back and just walk on my side of the court and have my hitter walk on his side of the court,” Williams said.

The French Open starts two weeks after the U.S. Open ends. Williams was asked if she will fly to Europe for tournaments this autumn.

“I see myself doing it all, if it happens,” she said.

The Tokyo Olympics are too far away to make plans.

“We’ll have to kind of wait to see what happens in the fall,” she said. “One thing I have learned with this pandemic is don’t plan.”

MORE: Past U.S. Open champions get wild cards

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