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Rhonda Faehn, women’s program head, ‘no longer with USA Gymnastics’

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Rhonda Faehn, the head of the U.S. women’s gymnastics program since 2015, is no longer with USA Gymnastics.

“This is a personnel matter that we will not discuss in detail,” USA Gymnastics said in a press release on behalf of president and CEO Kerry Perry. “We recognize that change can be difficult, but we will not be deterred from making necessary and bold decisions to transform our organization. At USA Gymnastics, we are focused every day on creating a highly empowered culture that puts our athletes first.

“Over the next few weeks, we will be communicating some positive changes that reinforce our desire to have our athletes train and compete at the highest level in an empowering and safe environment.

“USA Gymnastics is moving forward and positioning for the future with the commitment to our athletes’ safety and well-being at the heart of everything we do. We encourage member clubs, coaches, administrators and the gymnastics entire community to align their efforts to this important task. Together, we will create a culture of empowerment for the young men and women who are pursuing their gymnastics dreams today while honoring those who have gone before them.”

Faehn, the latest high-ranking USA Gymnastics official to leave the organization after the Larry Nassar sexual abuse crimes, was asked by Perry to resign Thursday, according to NBC News and national team gymnasts on social media.

Perry told Faehn, a senior vice president, only that USA Gymnastics needed to “move forward” from the Nassar scandal, according to NBC News, citing two sources with knowledge of the conversation that took place during a national-team camp in Tennessee.

Perry came from outside USA Gymnastics when she replaced Steve Penny as the national governing body’s president in December after Penny resigned amid the Nassar scandal.

“We have recently found out that Kerry Perry has asked Rhonda Faehn to resign from USA Gymnastics,” was posted on U.S. all-around champion Ragan Smith‘s Instagram with an image of Faehn addressing about 20 gymnasts. “We all strongly disagree in this decision and believe that Rhonda is the glue that is holding us together right now. We all TRUST her and believe that she is moving team USA forward.”

National team member Margzetta Frazier‘s Instagram and Twitter accounts were taken down after publishing a similar message Thursday.

Faehn, a 1988 Olympic alternate, joined USA Gymnastics full-time in 2015 as a senior vice president in charge of the women’s program after 13 years as University of Florida head coach.

In summer 2015, a coach overheard U.S. gymnasts Aly Raisman and Maggie Nichols discussing Nassar’s pelvic treatments as national team doctor. The coach reported it to Faehn, who reported it to Penny, according to NBC News.

USA Gymnastics has been criticized for not immediately calling police. Though Nassar stopped working with national-team gymnasts, it would be another year before he was fired from Michigan State, where he also sexually abused athletes.

Raisman called for Faehn to step down last week, according to the Indianapolis Star.

“I reported my abuse to Rhonda Faehn and so did Maggie Nichols, and I don’t know what she did or didn’t do with that information, but I didn’t get contacted by the FBI for over a year, and in that time 50 to 100 gymnasts were molested,” Raisman said last week, according to the newspaper. “This is my frustration of she’s still working there, and we need to understand what she did or didn’t do, because her and Steve Penny were fully aware of what’s going on. I mean, she’s still there.”

More than 300 women and girls have said they were sexually abused by Nassar. Michigan State said Wednesday it reached a $500 million settlement with 332 survivors.

Perry is scheduled to testify at a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee hearing Wednesday on sexual abuse within the U.S. Olympic community. Acting U.S. Olympic Committee CEO Susanne Lyons and leaders of USA Swimming, USA Volleyball and USA Taekwondo are also scheduled to testify.

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Tommy Ford ends U.S. men’s World Cup drought at Beaver Creek

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Tommy Ford earned his first World Cup win at age 30 and ended the U.S. men’s longest victory and podium droughts in two decades.

Ford won the giant slalom in Beaver Creek, Colo., on Sunday, the last North American race on tour this season. He prevailed by eight tenths of a second combining times over two runs.

“It doesn’t beat doing it here. I’ve been working hard,” Ford, in his 86th World Cup start dating to 2009, said on Olympic Channel: Home of Team USA. “No secret, just kept it simple and really trusted what I was doing.”

Norwegians Henrik Kristoffersen and Leif Kristian Nestvold-Haugen were second and third. American Ted Ligety, fourth after the opening run, finished 11th.

Full results are here.

Ford became the first U.S. man to win a World Cup since Travis Ganong took a downhill on Jan. 27, 2017. He also became the first U.S. male podium finisher since Ligety in January 2018. Both were the longest droughts for the program since the late 1990s.

Ford, a 2010 and 2018 Olympian who missed the 2014 Olympics due to a broken femur, had been working toward this moment.

He finished a World Cup career-high fourth at the season-opening giant slalom in Soelden, Austria, on Oct. 27. Last season, the Oregon native and former Dartmouth student had a pair of fifths.

The men’s World Cup moves to Val d’Isere, France, next weekend for a giant slalom and slalom.

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Katie Ledecky wins race by 30 seconds, takes back No. 1 ranking

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In her last race of the year, Katie Ledecky ensured she would finish 2019 as the world’s fastest 1500m freestyler.

Ledecky clocked 15:35.98 at the U.S. Open in Atlanta, winning the longest event on the Olympic pool program by 29.97 seconds. Typical for Ledecky, who owns the nine fastest times in history. This one came in at No. 8. Full meet results are here.

Ledecky scratched the 1500m free final at the summer world championships due to illness. Italian Simona Quadarella went on to win that title in 15:40.89, which was the world’s fastest time this year until Saturday night.

“I didn’t have time on my mind at all today. I just wanted to have a consistent swim,” Ledecky, undefeated in 1500m free finals for nine years, said on NBCSN. “That’s probably the best mile that I’ve had in a while.”

The women’s 1500m freestyle debuts at the Olympics in Tokyo. Ledecky is expected to add that to her Rio Olympic individual lineup of 200m, 400m and 800m frees, assuming she is top two in each event at the June Olympic trials.

In other events Saturday, Erika Brown handed Simone Manuel a rare defeat in the 100m freestyle. Brown, a University of Tennessee senior, clocked 53.42 and lowered her personal best by .71 between prelims and the final. Brown moved from sixth to fourth in the U.S. rankings this year, upping her stock as a contender to make the Olympic 4x100m free relay pool via a top-six finish at trials.

Brown previously lowered her personal best in the 50m free on Thursday. She ranks third in the U.S. this year in that event.

Emily Escobedo dealt Lilly King a rare domestic defeat in the 200m breaststroke. Escobedo lowered her personal best by .87 and clocked 2:22.00, moving to seventh fastest in the world this year and remaining fourth among Americans.

In the men’s 200m breast, Olympic champion Dmitriy Balandin of Kazakhstan was beaten by Cody Miller, the Olympic 100m breast silver medalist. Both were slower than their best times this year.

The next significant swim meet is a Tyr Pro Series stop in Knoxville, Tenn., from Jan. 16-19.

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