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Archive for Sunday, July 20, 2008

Hamm passes test, qualifies for Olympics

July 20, 2008

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— Paul Hamm is going to the Olympics again, thanks to a performance Saturday that ended any doubt about whether his broken hand has healed.

Eight weeks after breaking his right hand, Hamm needed to show competitive readiness at the last intrasquad meet before the U.S. gymnastics team leaves for China. And after a short meeting, the men's selection committee confirmed the defending Olympic champion would be on the team.

It wasn't exactly a stroll for Hamm, who grimaced and grunted his way through his rings routine and nearly fell during his high bar landing - signs that he still needs time to get in competitive shape.

But nobody was expecting perfection.

What they wanted to make sure of was that the hand had healed sufficiently, that his routines were rounding into form and that the spot awarded him after he petitioned his way through nationals and Olympic trials should still be his.

Answers: yes, yes and yes.

The Americans go through team qualifying in Beijing on Aug. 9 - three weeks from Saturday.

The men's selection committee mainly wanted to see Hamm go on rings, high bar and pommel horse, but he did portions of all six events, including the parallel bars, which is where he broke his right ring finger in the closing seconds of his routine at nationals.

Quick and successful surgery ensued - a titanium plate and nine small screws repaired the break - and Hamm is adding new portions to his routines almost daily.

At this rate, it's conceivable he'll be on the level of Yang Wei of China, Fabien Hambuechen of Germany and Hiroyuki Tomita of Japan - three top gymnasts who figure to make the biggest runs at taking his all-around title.

No doubt, Hamm will help the Americans in the team competition, where they finished fourth at worlds last year without him.

"He amazes me every day," Paul's twin brother, Morgan Hamm, said. "If you'd have seen him a week and a half ago in the gym, you wouldn't think he was the same person today. He's doing things today that, this is his first time doing. It doesn't look hard for him. He's a fighter."

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