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Don Porter, key Olympic softball leader, dies at 90

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Don Porter, the key figure to get softball into the Olympics in 1996 and back onto the Olympic program for the Tokyo Games, died Sunday at age 90.

“The main architect of the internationalization of softball,” World Baseball Softball Confederation (WBSC) President Riccardo Fraccari said in a press release. “Through his vision, efforts and decades of service, softball became an Olympic sport.

“He will be remembered forever as one of the most influential leaders in the history of the sport of softball, which is now played in over 130 countries around the world.”

Porter was president of the International Softball Federation (ISF) for 26 years, during which the sport was added to the Olympic program for the 1996 Atlanta Games.

Baseball and softball were cut from the Olympic program by an IOC members vote in 2005, the first sports axed from the Olympics since polo in 1936.

A total of 105 IOC members were eligible to vote “yay” or “nay” on all Olympic sports. A majority was needed to remain in the Games. Baseball went down 54-50. Softball was 52-52, a single vote from remaining at the Olympics.

Critics said softball wasn’t global enough. Not popular in Europe. That the U.S. dominated (before Japan became the first country other than the U.S. to take gold in 2008).

Porter and softball’s backers experienced further heartbreak when the IOC voted it down again in 2006, 2009 (losing to rugby and golf for the Rio Games) and 2013 (losing to wrestling, which remained on the Olympic program). Beginning in 2013, baseball and softball combined to form the WBSC, with Porter as co-president, to better their chances at Olympic inclusion.

While softball was off the Olympic program, Porter kept a box of 511 letters on his desk. They came from girls all over the world, from America to Zimbabwe, who were heartbroken.

“They touch my heart and constantly remind me of our mission and vision to give every little girl and boy in the world a chance to play our game through your Games,” Porter said in WBSC’s presentation at a 2013 IOC session. “In my judgment, you can’t leave a better personal legacy than giving young people a chance to dream of taking part in the Olympics.”

Softball and other sports received new life for the Tokyo Olympics when the IOC in December 2014 approved Agenda 2020, which included a provision that an Olympic host city could propose sports to be added for its specific edition of the Games.

Tokyo organizers submitted baseball-softball, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing in 2015. The IOC approved their inclusion, two days before the Rio Olympic Opening Ceremony.

“Softball would not be returning to next year’s Olympic Games without the life and work of Don Porter,” Fraccari said.

Before leading the ISF, Porter was executive director of the Amateur Softball Association (ASA). In 1962, he launched the first world softball championship for 1965. He began the push for softball’s Olympic inclusion in 1968, ultimately succeeding in a 1991 IOC decision.

Porter served in the Army during the Korean War and was awarded the Korean War Medal in 2001 by the Minister of Defense of the Republic of Korea, according to the Oklahoman.

Softball was originally scheduled as the first sport to be contested at the Tokyo Olympics, its first games two days before the Opening Ceremony and in Fukushima, the site of 2011 nuclear plant meltdowns caused by an earthquake and tsunami 155 miles north of Tokyo. It’s expected to remain as scheduled in July 2021.

“Modern softball history is directly linked with the name of Don Porter, the most important softball leader ever, alongside the inventor and early developer of the game, George Hancock,” WBSC Softball Chairman Tommy Velazquez said.

Figure skating Grand Prix Series will be held as ‘domestic’ competitions

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Figure skating’s Grand Prix Series will go ahead as scheduled this fall, with modifications due to the coronavirus pandemic, the International Skating Union decided Monday.

Each of the series’ six tops around the globe will be “a domestic run event,” limited to skaters of the event’s host country, who regularly train in the host country and from a respective geographical area. The number of disciplines and skaters at each event are to be worked out.

The Grand Prix Series, held annually since 1995, is a six-event fall season, qualifying the top six skaters and teams per discipline to December’s Grand Prix Final. The annual stops are in the U.S., Canada, China, France, Russia and Japan, leading up to the Final, which is held at a different site each year.

The Final is the second-biggest annual competition after the world championships, which are typically in late March. The Final is still scheduled for Beijing, though whether or when it can be held will be discussed.

The series begins in late October with Skate America, which debuted in 1979 and has been held every year since 1988 as the biggest annual international competition in the U.S. Skate America’s site is Las Vegas, just as it was in 2019.

Skaters typically compete twice on the Grand Prix Series (three times if they qualify for the Final), then at national championships in late December or January. The January 2021 U.S. Championships are scheduled for San Jose, Calif. The March 2021 World Championships are set for Stockholm.

In July, the ISU canceled the Junior Grand Prix Series for skaters mostly ages 13 to 18, including two-time U.S. champion Alysa Liu. Other early season senior international competitions scheduled for September were also canceled or postponed.

MORE: World’s top skater leaves famed coach

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Ex-Michigan State gymnastics coach sentenced in case tied to Larry Nassar

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LANSING, Mich. (AP) — A former Michigan State University head gymnastics coach was sentenced Tuesday to 90 days in jail for lying to police during an investigation into ex-Olympic and university doctor Larry Nassar.

Kathie Klages, 65, was found guilty by a jury in February of a felony and a misdemeanor for denying she knew of Nassar’s abuse prior to 2016 when survivors started to come forward publicly. She also was sentenced to 18 months of probation.

Klages testified at trial, and in a tearful statement Tuesday, that she did not remember being told about abuse. She said she had been seeing a therapist to try to remember the conversations and apologized to victims if they occurred.

“Even when I don’t express it to others, I struggle with what I’ve been accused of and what my role in this tragedy may have been,” she said in court.

Two women testified in November 2018 that in 1997 they told Klages that Nassar had sexually abused them and spoke Tuesday in court ahead of the sentencing. One of the women, Larissa Boyce, testified that Klages held up a piece of paper in front of the then-16-year-old and said if she filed a report there could be serious consequences for Boyce.

“I am standing here representing my 16-year-old self who was silenced and humiliated 23 years ago and unfortunately, all of the hundreds of girls that were abused after me,” Boyce said.

If the case had not involved Nassar, her lawyer has said, Klages would never have been found guilty. Nearly 200 letters were submitted to the judge on Klages’ behalf, her lawyer, Mary Chartier, said in a court filing ahead of the hearing. She noted that Klages sent her granddaughter, daughter and son to Nassar for health care.

“Mrs. Klages was one of thousands of people, including the police and the parents who were present in the room during treatments, who were fooled by a master manipulator with a singular design,” Chartier said.

It’s “shameful” to say that Klages could have prevented the scandal, Chartier said.

“Numerous people were told about the procedure — nurses, athletic trainers at other schools, psychologists, doctors and a high school counselor — and they did nothing,” Chartier said, quoting investigation reports. “Most notably, police and prosecutors were aware of the procedures, and they did nothing. To ignore this and claim that Mrs. Klages could have stopped the devastation wrought by Mr. Nassar is just plain false.”

Nassar was sentenced in 2018 to 40 to 175 years in prison for decades of sexual abuse to hundreds of athletes.

Klages is the second person other than Nassar to be convicted of charges related to his serial molestation of young women and girls under the guise of medical treatment. The misdemeanor carried up to a 2-year prison sentence, while the felony carried up to a 4-year prison sentence.

Nassar’s boss at Michigan State, ex-College of Osteopathic Medicine Dean William Strampel, was sentenced to jail for crimes including neglecting a duty to enforce protocols on Nassar after a patient complained about sexual contact in 2014.

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MORE: British gymnastics stars speak up about abuse amid investigation