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U.S. Figure Skating executives urge full investigation in John Coughlin case

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DETROIT — Two U.S. Figure Skating executives urged a full investigation into abuse allegations against former skater and coach John Coughlin, who killed himself last week.

Anne Cammett, president of the federation, and David Raith, USFS executive director, held a news conference at the U.S. Figure Skating Championships on Thursday. Cammett mentioned abuse allegations against Coughlin, but she and Raith did not go into detail.

“Whenever an allegation of sexual misconduct comes to light, it’s upsetting for everyone,” Raith said. “We get that. We all have emotions. Those many emotions can cause pain to those who have been abused, and I want to say at the outset, if you’ve been abused, know someone who’s been abused, or is being abused, or you suspect abuse is occurring, please come forward. You are not alone.”

Coughlin, a two-time national pairs champion, received an interim suspension from the U.S. Center for SafeSport and USFS a week ago for unspecified conduct. He was barred from any activities sanctioned by the skating body or the U.S. Olympic Committee. He then was found dead in Kansas City, Missouri, on Friday.

“John was well liked by many, from kids in his home rink in Kansas City, all the way to the leadership at ISU in Lausanne, Switzerland, and we were disheartened by the abuse allegations against him,” Cammett said. “But we take every allegation seriously, and we need to hear from those who may have suffered abuse, and we support them.”

Raith said the federation has reached out to SafeSport.

“We actually sent an additional email communication to them, specifically stating what we said today here, and we also suggested to them that they hire a third-party investigator or outside counsel,” Raith said.

Cammett said there wouldn’t be closure if the review were cut short.

“When allegations of abuse are made, we need to make sure the process is fair and carried out to the fullest extent under the circumstances,” Cammett said.

Scandals have plagued other Olympic sports, most notably gymnastics, in which hundreds of athletes have detailed being abused by imprisoned sports doctor Larry Nassar.

MORE: Remembering the attack on Nancy Kerrigan at the figure skating national championships 25 years ago

Bernard Lagat reminded of Atlanta Games at U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials

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ATLANTA — As 45-year-old Bernard Lagat sat inside a hotel overlooking Centennial Olympic Park, he spoke one sentence that prefaced the start of his Olympic journey more than two decades ago.

“We are doing this in a special place,” he said of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials, which finish at the park on Saturday (12 p.m. ET, NBC, NBCSports.com/live and the NBC Sports app).

Lagat is an underdog, but has a chance to make a sixth Olympic team by placing in the top three. He can break his own record as the oldest U.S. Olympic runner in history.

Lagat was reminded this week of the Atlanta Olympics that got away.

In 1996, the Kenyan-born runner was coming off his freshman year at Jomo Kenyatta University Agriculture and Technology in Nairobi. He studied mathematics and computer science.

Lagat debuted at the Kenyan Olympic Trials. He remembered finishing seventh in the 1500m, having exhausted himself by clocking a 3:37 semifinal.

“They had fancy shoes, nice clothing,” he said of the pros. “Me, I was like hand-me-down spikes.”

Lagat’s coach at the time, Nganga Ngata, arranged for him to transfer to Washington State later that summer. But first, Lagat watched on TV the Olympic 1500m final — famous for then-world-record holder Noureddine Morceli and current world-record holder Hicham El Guerrouj making contact at the bell; El Guerrouj fell, Morceli won.

Days later, Lagat headed to Jomo Kenyatta International Airport in Nairobi. He was to fly to the United States for the first time, embarking on a journey that would lead to U.S. Olympic teams in 2008, 2012 and 2016 after he represented Kenya in 2000 and 2004.

Before a 21-year-old Lagat boarded his flight, he encountered a reception. The Kenyan Olympic team was arriving back from Atlanta after collecting eight medals, including in every men’s distance-running event.

“They had all these celebrations, traditional milk and the gourds,” Lagat said. “Oh, it was amazing. … That fire, seeing them coming home with medals, and I thought, I want to be like those guys.”

Lagat went on to earn eight combined Olympic and world championships medals between the 1500m and 5000m. Lagat qualified for one last Olympics on the track in 2016, going from sixth place at the bell to win the trials 5000m. He was fifth in Rio.

Then he turned to the marathon. Lagat has raced two of them. He clocked 2:17:20 in New York City in 2018, saying he was “running blind” with inexperience. He ran 2:12:10 at the 2019 Gold Coast Marathon in Australia, ranking him outside the 20 fastest Americans in this Olympic cycle.

Lagat went back to Kenya last month to train for the trials with the likes of world-record holder Eliud Kipchoge. Lagat soaked up so much that he likened it to a six-week school term.

At one point, Lagat was part of a 30km training run with Kipchoge. By the end he rounded a bend and saw the Olympic favorite just 60 seconds ahead.

“You think about Eliud being 60 seconds ahead of you in a 30K?” an incredulous Lagat said. “I thought, I’m done. Now I can buy my flight and go back to USA. I’m ready.”

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MORE: Galen Rupp, after tumult, finds familiarity before Olympic marathon trials

Chris Lillis, after missing Olympics, back atop aerials podium

Andrey Kulagin
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U.S. men’s aerials skiers had gone four years between World Cup victories. Now, they’ve won back-to-back events.

Chris Lillis prevailed in Kazakhstan on Friday, six days after Justin Schoenefeld ended the U.S.’ longest men’s victory drought since aerials became an Olympic medal sport in 1994.

Lillis, the 21-year-old brother of 2017 World champion Jon Lillis, landed a double full-full-full in the super final to score 121.27 points. Full results are here. He beat a field that included Schoenefeld (sixth place) and his older brother (14th) but lacked the world’s best from China and Russia.

“That was definitely one of the best jumps of my career,” Chris Lillis said. “Moving forward I’m feeling deadly.”

Chris has earned back-to-back World Cup podiums, his first top-three finishes since missing the PyeongChang Olympics with a torn ACL.

Also Friday, American Megan Nick finished second in the women’s event for her second runner-up this season. The last U.S. woman to win a World Cup was Kiley McKinnon on Jan. 6, 2018.

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MORE: Olympic aerials champion retires to coach