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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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Nathan Chen on his way to defending World Championship title, Jason Brown in silver medal position

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Nathan Chen set up his World Championship title defense well, sitting in first place after the short program on Thursday in Saitama, Japan.

“That was fun,” his coach Rafael Arutunian told Chen in a hug as he walked off the ice.

Chen opened with a triple Axel, hung onto the landing of his quadruple Lutz, and ended with a quad toe, triple toe combination. He scored a season’s best 107.40 points to lead the field by a whopping 10.59 points.

“I’m very happy with my short program today,” Chen said in a press conference. “There’s always things that I can do better. Everything that I did, I did as best as I could. I hope to continue that into the long program.”

Chen is looking to become the first U.S. man to win back-to-back World titles since Scott Hamilton did so four times, from 1981-1984. Only six American men have won multiple World Championships. Chen is currently juggling school and skating, and his spending his spring break from Yale University at worlds.

In second place after the short program, Jason Brown also scored a season’s best 96.81. He opened with a triple flip, then a triple Axel, and a triple Lutz, triple toe combination to be in medal contention.

“I’m super pleased with today’s performance,” Brown said. “I’ve been working really hard this season building my consistency with my coaches.”

In a surprise finish, neither of Japan’s home favorites are in gold medal position after the short program — though they are within striking distance.

In his first competition since his November injury, two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu scored 94.87 points and is in third place. Hanyu turned his planned quad Salchow into a double but recovered to cleanly execute his triple Axel. His quad toe, triple toe combination was also called clean.

Saitama, Japan is the site of his first World Championship title from 2014 and this year he is vying for his third world title. Ahead of the start of this season, Brown moved to Toronto to train under Brian Orser, where Hanyu also trains. Brown added in the press conference that Hanyu has pushed him daily to be a better skater, while Hanyu returned the compliment and said Brown has inspired him, too.

“I’m basically very disappointed with my short program,” Hanyu said through an interpreter during the press conference. “I made a very big mistake. I aim to reflect back and figure out what I can do better for my free skate. I will look at everything I can do to improve upon my performance.”

Hanyu also said that he hopes to continue to compete against Chen — this is their first meeting since PyeongChang.

Hanyu and countryman Shoma Uno are skating on home ice in Japan, showing off the country’s depth of skating.

Uno, meanwhile, skated to “Stairway to Heaven” and fell on his opening quad flip attempt. He pulled off a subsequent quad toe, double toe combination (though it was a planned quad-triple) and triple Axel through the remainder of the program.

Fresh off his first major victory at the Four Continents championships in February, Uno scored 91.40 points and is currently in sixth place.

Full results are here.

Last months’ bronze medalist at Four Continents, Vincent Zhou, skated two quads in the short program and scored 94.17 points. The third U.S. man in the field had a clean quad Lutz, triple toe combination but his quad Salchow was called under-rotated, something he’s struggled with all season. He is in fourth place ahead of the men’s free skate on Saturday.

Two-time world bronze medalist Jin Boyang earned 84.26 points in the short program and is in ninth. He finished in 19th at last year’s championships following a fourth place in PyeongChang.

Canada’s Keegan Messing, who qualified for December’s Grand Prix Final, fell on his opening quad toe attempt. He didn’t add a combination to his triple Axel or triple Lutz but earned 82.38 and is in 13th place.

The rhythm dance gets underway on Thursday at 11 p.m. ET.

MORE: How to watch the World Figure Skating Championships | Sui Wenjing, Han Cong recapture world pair title | Alina Zagitova leads after ladies’ short program

As a reminder, you can watch the world 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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Sui Wenjing, Han Cong recapture world pair title

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China’s Sui Wenjing and Han Cong captured their second World Championship title in on Thursday in Saitama, Japan.

The Olympic silver medalists only returned to major international competition a month ago, winning Four Continents in February. They skipped the fall season due to Sui’s lingering foot injury. Sui and Han won the 2017 world title after two years of silver medals.

They were sitting in second after the short program behind Russians Yevgenia Tarasova and Vladimir Morozov, but scored 155.60 points in their clean free skate for a winning total overall score of 234.84 points. They also set the highest free skate score for the season en route to gold.

“We are very happy to have shown our best performance and to win this Championship. We had a tough time we could not prepare so well and did not have much time to practice. Our coaches and our team gave us a lot of support and we knew we can make it and get the title. Winning the second time was harder and it was a team effort,” Sui said, according to the ISU.

Tarasova and Morozov scored 147.26 in the free skate for 228.47 total points total, both season’s bests. They took home silver medals, to add to their 2017 bronze and 2018 silver medals from worlds.

Their Russian teammates Natalya Zabiyako and Aleksandr Enbert also skated a season’s best free skate, tallying 144.02 points and a total overall score of 217.98 points to capture the bronze, their first World medal.

Full results are here.

French pair Vanessa James and Morgan Cipres squandered their chances at a gold medal after the short program, where a messy performance left them in seventh place.

The Grand Prix Final gold medalists and European champions scored 146.52 in the free skate to finish with 215.19 points overall, landing in fifth place. Without anything to lose, they skated a relatively clean performance: James doubled a plan triple toe, double toe, double toe combination and put her foot down on the landing of the throw triple Salchow.

“We won’t give up until we get the World title,” the pair told the ISU. “The Worlds hasn’t been our best friend, but every time we come back stronger.”

The lone American pair at worlds, Ashley Cain and Timothy LeDuc, celebrated exuberantly in the Kiss and Cry with coaches Peter and Darlene Cain, Ashley’s parents. Despite Cain’s fall on the throw triple Salchow in the free skate, they finished in ninth place. They scored 126.88 in the free skate for 193.81 points overall.

By staying within the top-10 overall, the U.S. national champions secured two quota spots for the U.S. at the 2020 World Championships. The pair told NBCSports.com/figure-skating that was their goal all season, even with Cain’s concussion in December nearly derailing those plans.

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WE DID IT✌🏻✌🏻⁣ Goals for the season:⁣ •Win National title✅⁣ •Top ten at our first World Championships✅⁣ •Earn the two spots back for Team USA pairs✅⁣ We feel truly honored to be here in Japan and competing on behalf of Team USA! This season has been a pretty wild ride and it wouldn’t have been possible without the amazing team around us! Thank you to our coaches, our trainers, my family, my fiancé, US Figure Skating staff, the spectators, and all of our training mates back home! ⛸ “Whenever you find yourself doubting how far you can go, just remember how far you have come. Remember everything you have faced, all the battles you have won and all the fears you have overcome.” #WorldFigure

A post shared by Ashley Elizabeth Cain (@icegirlash) on

Also of note: Great Britain’s Zoe Jones, 39-year-old mother of three, competed with partner Christopher Boyadji. Jones is a former singles skater who retired in 2001 before coming back to the sport as a pair skater in 2014. They skated personal best scores in the short program, free skate and overall total and finished 17th in Japan.

The men’s short program gets underway at 3 a.m. ET Thursday.

MORE: How to watch the World Figure Skating Championships | Men’s Preview

As a reminder, you can watch the world 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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