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Olympian sues USA Swimming to allege sexual abuse cover-up

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SEATTLE (AP) — Olympic swimmer Ariana Kukors Smith sued USA Swimming on Monday, alleging the sport’s national governing body knew her former coach sexually abused her as a minor and covered it up.

Kukors Smith filed the lawsuit in Superior Court in Orange County, California. She alleges Sean Hutchison, who began coaching her at a swim club near Seattle, groomed her for sexual abuse when she was 13, started touching and kissing her when she was 16 and engaging in sexual activity with her when she was 17.

Hutchison has denied the allegations and has not been charged with a crime.

Kukors Smith also is suing longtime Olympic coach Mark Schubert, saying he failed to report “a reasonable suspicion of child abuse or endangerment.”

Kukors Smith, the 2009 World champion in the 200m individual medley who placed fifth in that event at the 2012 Games, told reporters that “by doing nothing,” USA Swimming “enabled Sean Hutchison to abuse me for a decade.”

USA Swimming hired a private investigator to look into rumors of a relationship between the two in 2010. The organization said it closed the investigation without finding any misconduct after they and others denied the relationship.

The lawsuit says top USA Swimming officials knew in 2005 of allegations of Hutchison having inappropriate relationships with underage swimmers, including Kukors Smith, who was then 16.

Top officials at the governing body, according to the lawsuit, also manipulated a background screening system to shield coaches accused of abuse.

“Those at USA Swimming need to change the culture of protecting predator coaches over young and vulnerable athletes such as myself,” Kukors Smith said.

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Ariana Kukors comes out of swimming retirement

Ariana Kukors
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World champion swimmer Ariana Kukors‘ retirement lasted about one year.

Kukors, the 2009 World champion and world record holder in the 200m individual medley, announced last summer she had tossed aside her cap and goggles.

She was a correspondent for Seattle NBC affiliate KING 5 at the Sochi Olympics, where the atmosphere played a role in inspiring her return. She detailed her thoughts in a blog.

“[We] were standing together when the Olympic cauldron lit up, and I didn’t realize what the Olympics meant to me until that moment,” Kukors, 25, who finished fifth in her only Olympic swim, the 2012 200m IM, told KING 5.  “I need to do this, it’s so amazing. I need to do this.

“The pool is the essence of my soul.”

Kukors will live and train at USC, where close friend and Olympic champion breaststroker Rebecca Soni used to train. She hopes to return to competition next year, according to KING 5.

Soni, 27, is still retired.

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World champion swimmer Ariana Kukors retires

Ariana Kukors
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Ariana Kukors, a world champion and world-record holder in the 200-meter individual medley, has retired from swimming at age 24.

Kukors actually announced it in July in a Q&A, but the news is making the rounds this week following a story in the Kent (Wash.) Reporter, Kukors’ hometown newspaper.

“I always kind of thought that 2012 would be my last year,” Kukors told the newspaper. “The (London) Olympics were the perfect icing on the cake. I’m very pleased and content with my career.”

Kukors starred at the 2009 World Championships, where she broke 2008 Olympic champion Stephanie Rice‘s world record in the 200 IM by more than a second in the semifinals. She went even lower in the final in Rome, setting the mark that still stands today — 2:06.15.

The Chinese teen sensation Ye Shiwen, who broke the world record in the 400 IM at the 2012 Olympics, wasn’t even close to Kukors’ time in the 200 IM, winning in 2:07.57.

Kukors took bronze in the 200 IM at the 2011 World Championships and place fifth behind Ye at the London Olympics.

In 2008, Kukors just missed making the Olympic team, finishing third in the 200 IM at trials behind Katie Hoff and Natalie Coughlin. She was also sixth in the 400 IM and the 200 breaststroke.

Olympic champion swimmer from 2000 also retires