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Archive for Sunday, August 22, 2004

Gymnastics judges suspended

Hamm keeps gold, but Yang was unfairly penalized

August 22, 2004

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— Paul Hamm thought his fantastic finish was too good to be true. Maybe he was right.

The International Gymnastics Federation ruled Saturday that Yang Tae-young was unfairly docked a tenth of a point in the all-around final, costing him the gold medal that ended up going to Hamm. The South Korean took the bronze instead.

The federation suspended three judges, but it said the results would not be changed in a case that brought back memories of the figure skating scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Although there are no signs of impropriety by the gymnastics judges, the South Koreans now will ask the Court of Arbitration for Sports to determine if Yang deserves a gold medal.

"We want obvious mistakes to be corrected," said Jae Soon-yoo, an official with the South Korean delegation.

Hamm came all the way back from 12th place with two routines left Wednesday night to become the first American man to win the Olympic all-around.

He won the meet over South Korea's Kim Dae-eun by 0.012, the event's closest margin ever. Yang was 0.049 behind Hamm.

The 0.100 points deducted from Yang's start value in parallel bars -- the difficulty of the routine -- was the difference between third and first. Without the mistake, Yang would have won gold, Hamm silver and Kim bronze.

Teams can make an "inquiry" about a start value, but it must be done no later than one event after the routine in question, according to gymnastics rules.

South Korea failed to lodge a protest in time, so the scoring could not be changed, said Philippe Silacci, spokesman for the federation, known as FIG. But Jae said the South Koreans did question the scoring as soon as the routine was over and were told by the judges to file a protest letter after the meet.

"They said that was the best they could do right there on the spot," she said. "It was a real basic injustice in judging practices."

USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi compared Wednesday's mistake to a bad call in football that wasn't discovered until after the game. He insisted FIG's decision should not put an asterisk on Hamm's gold medal.

"Paul Hamm's performance the other night was absolutely incredible," Colarossi said. "It's unfortunate the judges didn't have the right start value."

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