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Larry Probst, USOC chairman, to step down

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USOC chairman Larry Probst will step down from the board at the end of the year after 10 years as chair, succeeded by independent board member Susanne Lyons, the USOC acting CEO earlier this year.

“Serving as chairman of the USOC board of directors has been an extraordinary honor and I’m proud of the work we did during my tenure to support American athletes, and advance the Olympic and Paralympic movements,” Probst said in a press release. “I became chairman at a difficult time for the USOC and worked diligently with my colleagues here in the U.S., and around the world, to change the USOC for the better. It’s now time for a new generation of leaders to confront the challenges facing the organization and I have the utmost confidence in Susanne’s and Sarah’s ability to do just that.”

Probst was first elected chairman in 2008, then reelected in 2012 and 2016.

Probst, whose IOC membership is tied to his USOC role, said he will meet with IOC president Thomas Bach later this month as he looks for ways he may stay involved in the Olympic Movement.

Lyons was acting CEO from Feb. 28-Aug. 20, replacing Scott Blackmun, until Sarah Hirshland took over as permanent CEO.

Blackmun stepped down after eight years as CEO in February, citing difficulties with prostate cancer and the federation’s need to urgently move forward to address the sex abuse scandal that has rocked gymnastics.

Lyons was first elected to the board in December 2010 and will serve a four-year term as chair starting Jan. 1.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Olympic collector donates gold medals, memorabilia worth millions

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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — The collector of the world’s most thorough cache of Olympic torches, medals and other valuable keepsakes insists he does not play favorites. They are all his babies.

Still, when pressed, Gordy Crawford brings up a gold medal from the 1932 Lake Placid Winter Olympics. Not long ago, a family from Norway put it up for auction. The price tag soared into six figures. There was only one other bidder.

“It was the IOC,” he said. “Fortunately for me, they had a budget and I didn’t. So, I have a 1932 gold medal.”

That gold medal, along with millions of dollars’ worth of Olympic treasures Crawford has collected over the years, now resides in the archives at the U.S. Olympic Committee headquarters in Colorado Springs.

Crawford, 71, felt it was time to turn his passel over to the USOC. He spent $1.5 million to build an archive room (an entire floor, actually) that includes a 225-square-foot fireproof Special Collections area where the torches and medals will live behind glass.

Parts of the collection will eventually go on display at the U.S. Olympic Museum, now under construction in Colorado Springs and expected to open in 2020.

“I want all that history to be celebrated in a public place, hopefully to inspire future athletes to compete, and to inspire sponsors and donors to contribute to the team,” said Crawford, who, in addition to his role of collector, historian and passionate fan, serves as chairman of the USOC’s charitable arm, the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Foundation.

Poring through Crawford’s collection is like taking a trivia tour through Olympic history. Did you know:

—There are only two medals for each event at the first modern Games — Athens,1896 — a silver awarded to the winner and bronze for second place.

—The 1904 Olympics were folded into the World’s Fair in St. Louis, and there was so much action going on around the games, says USOC archivist Teri Hedgpeth, as she gingerly unwraps medals from those games, “that hardly anyone knew they were going on.”

—That led Athens to hold a 1906 Olympics, the “officialness” of which is widely debated. Were they real Olympics? Depends on who you ask. But Crawford has a medals set from them nonetheless.

—One of Crawford’s most valuable torches is from the 1952 Summer Games in Helsinki — only 21 exist, and only three of those were in private hands. Crawford waited 25 years for his chance and he paid more than $1 million for it. Another is from 1956, the year Melbourne held the Summer Games, but because of quarantine rules, did not allow horses to enter the country for the equestrian events. That competition was moved to Stockholm, and a limited number of torches were produced that read “Stockholm 1956.” All were marched into the competition area on horseback.

Crawford’s collection essentially completes an archive that is literally overflowing with Olympic memories grand and not-so-grand.

In one corner, still covered in plastic wrap, is a full-sized statue of Sam the Olympic Eagle, the official mascot of the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

Displayed on a bookshelf nearby is one of Michael Johnson‘s famous golden spikes from the 1996 Olympics.

Last month, the archive received a mint-condition Opening Ceremony uniform from the Mexico City Games from swimmer Kathy Thomas Young.

After bobsledder Steven Holcomb died last year, his family donated his uniforms, medals his crystal globes from World Cup action — six of which reside in the fireproof vault along with Crawford’s torches and medals.

“Shock and awe,” Hedgpeth said of her reaction to Crawford’s donation. “Awe that he allows us to do it, and it’s a phenomenal collection. It’s a dream come true.”

Crawford’s day job was at a global investment company, where he worked for a long while as a media/entertainment analyst.

He received an invitation to the Sarajevo Winter Games in 1984 as a guest of ABC. Soon after landing, he was surrounded by pin traders, including Viktor Cornell, one of the world’s most renowned pin collectors.

“He’s the guy who sold me my first Olympic medal,” Crawford said. “It was a bronze from Berlin in 1936. That started me collecting the serious stuff.”

There are a few missing pieces: A gold medal from 1904. Medals from Sochi and Vancouver.

In some ways, the newer medals are harder to come by.

Back in the days of the Eastern Bloc, an athlete from East Germany or Hungary could sell a medal and buy a house, or feed his family for a year.

These days, Olympic athletes across the globe are, in general, more financially secure, giving them less incentive to sell the recently won prizes.

Meanwhile, children and grandparents of Olympic winners from decades gone by come across old medals sitting in drawers and basements; they may feel no real connection to the medals but want them in the hands of someone who will take care of them.

Crawford fits the bill.

Soon, an insurance appraiser will come to Colorado to put a value on goods that are estimated to be worth more than $15 million in total. But Crawford and Hedgpeth each acknowledge that there isn’t really a number to put on a collection this thorough.

“It’s a combination of loving the Olympics,” Crawford says in explaining his passion for collecting, “and I’m a real patriot. My eyes still well up when they play the anthem. And I love seeing great athletes represent our country.”

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New USOC CEO calls for another shakeup at USA Gymnastics

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DENVER (AP) — Not a month into her new job as CEO of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Sarah Hirshland has seen enough from USA Gymnastics.

She’s calling for yet another shake-up in the federation’s leadership as it tries to remake itself in the wake of the Larry Nassar sex-abuse scandal.

Hirshland sent out a statement Friday night calling for changes in the USA Gymnastics leadership, only hours after the federation awkwardly fired the coach it had hired only three days earlier as its elite program coordinator.

The coach, Mary Lee Tracy, was an early supporter of Nassar when allegations against him began to surface. Then, without permission this week, Tracy reached out to one of her fiercest critics, gold medalist Aly Raisman, who is suing USAG.

“As we close the day, I’m afraid I can offer nothing but disappointment,” Hirshland said. “Under the circumstances, we feel that the organization is struggling to manage its obligations effectively and it is time to consider making adjustments in the leadership.”

She said the USOC would be reaching out to the USAG board over the weekend to discuss changes.

That likely spells trouble for Kerry Perry, who took over for Steve Penny as president of USA Gymnastics in November 2017.

Perry has made very few public statements, and has had trouble gathering support in the gymnastics community, since taking over as part of a USOC-directed turnover of the federation’s board and senior management.

USAG officials did not immediately return messages left by The Associated Press seeking comment.

Two weekends ago at national championships, Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles, a Nassar abuse victim herself, withheld judgment on the path USA Gymnastics has taken, saying “nobody can know until Kerry Perry speaks up. It’s kind of hard.”

Perry did speak up later that weekend, saying all but a few of the 70 recommendations suggested by an independent review of the federation’s actions had been implemented.

Much of that progress has been overshadowed by a steady stream of new allegations against Nassar and missteps by USA Gymnastics.

Tracy’s hiring certainly had the look of an unforced error.

She was on record as having supported Nassar in 2016, when allegations began surfacing.

As soon as Tracy was hired, Raisman, who has emerged as one of USA Gymnastics’ most vocal critics, called it “a slap in the face for survivors, and further proof that nothing at USAG has changed.”

Shortly after that, Tracy reached out to Raisman to apologize and talk about the future.

But USAG didn’t approve of that, and released a statement Friday afternoon saying Tracy had inappropriately contacted the gymnast, and had to ask for Tracy’s resignation.

The call by Hirshland comes as the USOC itself is under the microscope for its own handling of sex-abuse allegations.

She took over for Scott Blackmun, who resigned as CEO in February due to health problems, while calls for his ouster were increasing for what critics said was the USOC’s own slow reaction and unwillingness to take responsibility for abuse in Olympic sports.

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