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Kip Keino, Kenyan Olympic legend, says charges against him dropped, has been released

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Running great Kip Keino said Friday that charges against him in a Kenyan Olympic corruption case have been dropped and he has been released.

The honorary IOC member tells The Associated Press that he still needs to appear in court on Tuesday — with speculation that he may now be a witness in the case — but no longer faces charges of corruption and abuse of office relating to the alleged misuse of more than $545,000 around the time of the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics.

“They have dropped the charges against me,” Keino told the AP.

He said he “just left the court” in Nairobi where he had been expected to be charged earlier Friday. The 78-year-old two-time Olympic champion surrendered to police on Thursday.

He had earlier denied wrongdoing in an interview with the AP, saying he had no control over the money prosecutors allege was embezzled and misappropriated.

Keino was one of seven Kenyan Olympic and government officials initially accused of corruption and abuse of office in prosecution documents released last weekend. It threatened the reputation of one of track and field’s most revered figures.

The six others, including Kenya’s former sports minister and the current secretary general of the country’s Olympic committee, have all been charged and face trial next month. The allegations of corruption reach the upper levels of the Kenyan government, with high-ranking political figures charged.

It relates to the alleged embezzlement and misappropriation of more than half a million dollars before and during the Rio Games. Keino was president of the Kenyan Olympic committee from 1999 until last year.

Prosecutors had said Keino oversaw a Kenyan Olympic expedition to Rio where more than $300,000 was wasted, some of it spent on joy rides and family members of officials who had nothing to do with the team but were given air tickets and tens of thousands of dollars in allowances.

More than $200,000 simply disappeared and was embezzled, the prosecutors say.

In the phone interview with the AP before he was due in court, Keino denied involvement and appeared to blame the former officials in the government’s sports ministry.

“I was not writing any government checks,” Keino said. “It’s their people who did it. That’s what I know.”

Three former sports ministry officials, including former minister of sport Hassan Wario, were charged with corruption and abuse of office Friday. They denied the charges and were released on $10,000 cash bail each. The three others were charged Monday.

Wario is now Kenya’s ambassador to Austria, while another defendant, his former sports ministry colleague Richard Ekai, was recently appointed ambassador to Russia. Ekai requested his passport back on Monday to present his ambassadorial credentials in Russia. He was denied.

Wario, a member of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s cabinet at the time of the alleged offenses, was dressed in a suit and wore a fez-like hat in court as he was charged with six counts relating to the mismanagement of public money. The court also denied his request to have his passport released so he could continue his job in Austria.

The judge said the trial will start next month.

John Kariuki, head of the Kenyan police’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations, said they were “reviewing” the possibility that Keino would become a witness.

Keino didn’t address whether he would be a witness or not when confirming he had been released.

In one of the initial accusations against him, prosecutors say Keino gave his son nearly $25,000 and included him in Kenya’s official Rio Games delegation.

Keino, a former policeman, was the forerunner for generations of Kenyan middle- and long-distance champions when he won gold in the 1500m at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics. He broke the Olympic record despite struggling with illness in the days before the race.

He was also the Olympic champion four years later in Munich in the 3000m steeplechase.

His performances inspired countless Kenyan champions and his reputation was enhanced by his humanitarian work in his home country, where he has built schools and a home for orphans. He is probably Kenya’s most respected sportsman, loved for his success but also for his humble origins — poor and orphaned at a young age — that resonate with so many, not just distance-running hopefuls.

Because of that humanitarian work, Keino was the first recipient of the International Olympic Committee’s Olympic Laurel award in 2016 and was honored at the Opening Ceremony of the Rio Games. Keino and former IOC president Jacques Rogge are the only two people to receive the award.

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VIDEO: Bolt scores first 2 goals for pro soccer team; decision next

Nathan Chen prepared to capture third national title

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Nathan Chen called into his media teleconference from the rink last week, still on his winter break between his freshman semesters at Yale University.

The signal wasn’t great inside, he said, and it momentarily spared him from answering a direct question about his GPA his first semester as a college student.

Back on the call, the reigning world champion admitted, “I’m not gonna say the exact number, but there are some A’s and B’s sprinkled in.

“Really no complaints. I got pretty good grades. I’m pretty happy with that.”

His skating report card from the fall reads equally as impressively. Chen won the title at Skate America to open the season, followed by a come-from-behind win at Grand Prix France. To cap it all off, he won a second-consecutive Grand Prix Final title.

All this while the 2018 Olympic team event bronze medalist is across the country from his longtime coach Rafael Arutunian and trying out telecoaching for the first time.

Back in California between semesters, Chen said Raf has asked him to stay full-time.

“Since the past two weeks that I’ve been here, literally every day he’s been like, ‘you gotta come back! You gotta come back! There’s so much that you can learn at the rink. I respect what your decision is at Yale but it’s been so great having you here.’ He really wishes that I could stay here full time but at the same time, I already started this path and I don’t really want to pull out just yet.”

As for his second semester in college, Chen is signed up for about 10 courses and will have about two weeks at the beginning of term to add and drop courses. He’ll be in classes – he’s not exactly sure which, though – for a week before attempting to notch his third-straight U.S. national title.

“I selected a bunch of courses, probably selected like 10 different courses. I’ll go in and the first week I will see which courses I like, which courses I don’t like.”

Competing during the spring semester might be harder. February’s Four Continents Championships, this year to be held in Anaheim, Calif., aren’t during a scheduled academic break. Conveniently, world championships are scheduled during Yale’s spring break.

“I’m not sure yet [if he’ll compete there if named to the team],” he said. “That’s still TBD. I would love to since it’s in California, and it’s a great event. We’ll see.”

But for now, competing well in Detroit is the next step.

“I have to skate as well as I can and regardless of the external things,” he said when asked if coming in as the reigning world champion or as the favorite affects him. “Just focus on all the things that I can do right now in training to make sure that I do the best I can in competition.”

The men’s short program is Jan. 26 followed by the free skate on Jan. 27.

MORE: Adam Rippon’s new year’s resolutions

As a reminder, you can watch the U.S. Championships live and on-demand with the ‘Figure Skating Pass’ on NBC Sports Gold. Go to NBCsports.com/gold/figure-skating to sign up for access to every ISU Grand Prix and championship event, as well as domestic U.S. Figure Skating events throughout the season. NBC Sports Gold gives subscribers an unprecedented level of access on more platforms and devices than ever before.

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Mikaela Shiffrin wins Kronplatz giant slalom for her 10th win of the season

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Mikaela Shiffrin won the women’s giant slalom at the World Cup stop in Kronplatz, Italy, on Tuesday, marking her 10th victory of the 2018-19 season and 53rd World Cup win of her career. Shiffrin, the 2018 Olympic giant slalom gold medalist, led France’s Tessa Worley by 1.39 seconds after the first run. Although Worley outpaced Shiffrin in the second run, Shiffrin’s massive first-run margin allowed her to win the two-run event by 1.21 seconds. Italy’s Marta Bassino placed third. Full results are here. 

Shiffrin entered Kronplatz ranked third in the World Cup giant slalom standings, but moves into first place with the win. The 23-year-old also leads the overall World Cup leader board, as well as the slalom and super-G discipline standings. Shiffrin has won seven World Cup globes in her career (two overall, five slalom).

Shiffrin has already broken multiple records this season, including becoming the youngest skier to win 50 World Cup races, and there are still more records within striking distance. Shiffrin could break the record for most World Cup wins in a single seasons; the current record (14) was set by Switzerland’s Vreni Schneider in 1988-89.

The next stop for the women’s World Cup is this weekend in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy, with two downhills scheduled for Friday and Saturday, and a super-G slated for Sunday. Shiffrin plans to skip the downhills, but enter the super-G. Lindsey Vonn, who missed the start of the season with a knee injury, is expected to make her return to competition in Friday’s downhill.