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Originally published Friday, December 21, 2012 at 8:26 PM

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Gymnast Gabby Douglas is AP's female athlete of the year

Gymnast Gabby Douglas was selected The Associated Press' female athlete of the year.

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Gymnastics

AP honors Douglas

When Gabby Douglas allowed herself to dream of being the Olympic champion, she imagined having a dinner with family and friends to celebrate. Maybe she would make an appearance here and there.

"I didn't think it was going to be crazy," the 16-year-old Douglas said, laughing. "I love it. But I realized my perspective was going to have to change."

Douglas has become a worldwide star since winning the Olympic all-around title in London, the first African-American gymnast to claim the sport's biggest prize.

She also was selected The Associated Press' female athlete of the year, edging swimmer Missy Franklin 48-41 in a vote by U.S. editors and news directors that was announced Friday.

On Thursday, swimming icon Michael Phelps was honored as AP male athlete of the year.

Baseball

Twins sign Harden

The Minnesota Twins signed right-hander Rich Harden to a minor-league contract, with an invitation to compete for a spot on the big-league staff in spring training.

The 31-year-old Harden sat out the 2012 season after Jan. 31 surgery to repair the rotator cuff in his throwing shoulder, his latest setback in a long line of arm problems.

Harden, after going 11-7 with a 3.99 earned-run average in 31 starts over 189-2/3 innings in his first full year in the majors in 2004, hasn't surpassed the 150-inning mark since. He pitched 82-2/3 innings and had a 5.12 ERA in 15 starts with Oakland in 2011.

Harden's career record is 59-38, with a 3.76 ERA and 949 strikeouts over 928-1/3 innings.

Cubs, outfielder agree

The Chicago Cubs say they have agreed to a one-year contract with outfielder Nate Schierholtz, 28.

The deal calls for him to earn $2.25 million, plus an additional $500,000 in performance bonuses.

Schierholtz was traded from San Francisco to Philadelphia on July 31. He batted .257 with six homers in 114 games this year.

NHL

Players OK measure

NHL players are a step closer to dissolving their union.

In a vote this week, union members overwhelmingly agreed to give the players' association's executive board the power to file a "disclaimer of interest" until Jan. 2. A person familiar with the outcome of the vote told The Associated Press the measure was approved 706-22 (97 percent), easily reaching the two-thirds majority of the vote that was necessary.

If the executive board files the disclaimer, the union would dissolve and become a trade association. That would allow players to file antitrust lawsuits against the NHL. Negotiations between the NHL and the union have been at a standstill since talks ended Dec. 6.

All games through Jan. 14 have been canceled.

Friday was the 97th day of the lockout.

Tennis

Nadal sounds wary

After a seven-month hiatus nursing a hurt knee, Rafael Nadal is wary about his upcoming return to action and believes it might be some time before he is back in top form.

"I have my doubts. It's normal. We are talking about a knee, so of course I am afraid to see how it is going to respond," the 26-year-old Spaniard said.

Referee is reinstated

Lois Goodman, a referee whose career was almost ended by a charge she murdered her husband with a coffee cup, has been reinstated after the charge was dismissed for lack of evidence.

Elsewhere

Marlies Schild of Austria had surgery on her right knee and will be out for about three months. The four-time World Cup slalom champion was injured during training Thursday in Are, Sweden.

• ESPN suspended commentator Rob Parker for 30 days for questioning the "blackness" of Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III during a Dec. 13 episode of "First Take."

Posting to Twitter, Parker said, "I blew it and I'm sincerely sorry. I completely understand how the issue of race in sports is a sensitive one and needs to be handled with great care."

Parker, who is black, was discussing Griffin's role as an African-American quarterback when he noted Griffin has a white fiancée and is rumored to be a Republican.

Among his comments, Parker said, "Is he a brother or a cornball brother?"

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