First-ever U.S. Male Gymnast to win the All-around Title at the 2004 Athens Olympics; Three-time U.S. National All-around Champion
Over and out
Hamm was cruising at the U.S. Nationals in May before he broke his right hand during his routine on the parallel bars. Despite not competing in the Olympic Trials, he was named to the team. After proving himself to the U.S. men's program selection committee, Hamm withdrew from Beijing on July 28 citing a shoulder injury.
Comeback for the ages
Paul Hamm's all-around medal hopes looked bleak in Athens when a fall on his vault landing dropped him into 12th place in the standings. But Hamm completed one of the most improbable comebacks in Olympic history to become America's first men's all-around champion. Needing a 9.825 on high bar -- Hamm's best event and the final event of the competition -- his routine, which included three straight flawless release moves, earned a 9.837, pushing his all-around total to 57.823 points just, .012 more than the runner-up.
Center of the storm
During the men's all-around final in Athens, eventual bronze medalist, South Korean Yang Tae-Young was credited with an incorrect Start Value on parallel bars, 9.9 instead of 10.0. Yang's total score was less than one-tenth behind Hamm. Gymnastics' greatest controversy ensued when the South Koreans protested the score and the FIG, gymnastics' governing body, admitted an error was made and suspended the judges responsible, but would not change the results. It was an embarrassing time for the FIG, complete with its president, Bruno Grandi, stating in a letter: "The true winner of the all-around competition is Yang Tae-Young."
Grandi reversed his position in 2006, telling the Associated Press, "If I were eating a plate of spaghetti with him, I'd say 'Paul Hamm is the Olympic champion," and "There was a judging mistake ... It was not his fault. For me, he won the Olympic Games. It's finished. He won the gold medal."
Stepping back (and then back in)
Hamm and his twin brother Morgan took a 20-month break from competitive gymnastics after the Athens Games and focused on their educations. In June 2007, Paul graduated from Ohio State University with a degree in accounting; Morgan earned a degree in exercise science. The two announced their intent to train for the Beijing Games in February, 2007 and competed at Nationals in August, where Paul won the floor exercise title. They have insisted -- from the beginning -- that this comeback was about enjoying every step of the process, together. So when they speak, they use 'we' instead of 'I'.
First on first
Hamm became the first American man to win the individual all-around world title at the 2003 World Championships in Anaheim, Calif. Trailing China's Yang Wei in the final rotation by less than .05 points, Paul completed a difficult high bar routine and stuck the landing to pass Yang for the title. It was the first all-around Worlds medal by an American man since Kurt Thomas won silver in 1979. Paul also tied Bulgaria's Jordan Jovtchev for gold on floor and helped the U.S. men to their second consecutive silver in the team event.
Ending an era
Hamm's first U.S. all-around title in 2002 ended Blaine Wilson's attempt to become a six-time national champion. In 2002, he also claimed the national title in vault. He's since won two more national all-around titles.
At the 2000 Olympics, Paul and Morgan became the first set of twins to make the U.S. gymnastics team.
Paul's success has come slightly ahead of Morgan's. Paul made the national team in 1999 after an 11th-place finish in the all-around at Nationals. Morgan was not named to the national team until February 2000. But former coach Stacy Maloney recognized that the twins both had potential. By age 11, Paul and Morgan were working out five days a week at Swiss Turners. Morgan says Paul is daring, adding "Paul is a gymnastics genius and he's almost always the guinea pig in the gym." In return, Paul says Morgan is more of a thinker and has a much better memory than he does.
The twins' older sister, Betsy, was a 1998 NCAA champion in balance beam (for Florida, before transferring to Iowa State). Their father, Sandy, was a nationally ranked diver. The twins grew up on a farm in Waukesha, Wis., and used makeshift equipment to practice on at home. Sandy built a pommel horse from an old maple tree and foam and leather from automobile upholstery; rings were hung in the attic; a stairway railing was made into parallel bars; and they set up a trampoline in the barn.
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