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Archive for Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Hamm lobbying to keep gold medal

South Koreans challenging Athens gymnastics scores

September 28, 2004

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Paul Hamm traded his warmup suit for a real suit Monday and shook hands with the man who wants to take away his gold medal. He then settled in for an 11 1/2-hour hearing that will determine, once and for all, the winner of the Olympic gymnastics all-around competition.

Three panelists on the Court of Arbitration for Sport listened to the arguments made on behalf of Hamm and Yang Tae-young of South Korea, who both believe they won the gold last month in Athens, Greece.

Within the next two weeks, the arbitrators will take the testimony from the hearing in Lausanne, Switzerland, make their ruling and finalize the result of the first Olympic gymnastics meet that couldn't get settled in the gym.

"Everything went very smoothly," Hamm said in a teleconference after the hearing. "It was a very fair hearing and everyone got the chance to say what they thought. If they determine by the rules of gymnastics I should give back my medal, I will."

It has been quite an odyssey for Hamm and Yang, who was wrongly docked 0.1 points for the level of difficulty of his parallel bars routine in the all-around. He ended up with the bronze, 0.049 points behind Hamm.

The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) reviewed the meet the next day and suspended the judges, admitting a mistake and adding fuel to the South Korean protest.

Despite the suspensions, officials for the federation said they wouldn't change the results.

FIG president Bruno Grandi confused the issue, however, when he wrote a letter to Hamm asking him to surrender the gold medal voluntarily.

Buoyed by that statement, the South Koreans brought the case to CAS -- the sports world's highest court and final authority on Olympic matters -- and argued that had Yang received that extra tenth, he would have won the meet by 0.051.

Arguing on Hamm's behalf, U.S. Olympic Committee attorney Jeff Benz said there was no way to assume Yang would have won, because there was one event left after the parallel bars and there was no guarantee everything would have turned out the same.

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