Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Paul Hamm

On September 24, 1982, American artistic gymnast, Paul Elbert Hamm was born in Washburn, Wisconsin. Paul Hamm is not only a World Champion gymnast, but he is a three-time Olympic medalist as well as winning the all-around competition at the Olympic Games in 2004. He was also the first American male gymnast to win the all-around title at the 2003 World Championships.

During the Summer Olympics held in Athens in 2004, Paul competed with his twin brother Morgan. The team won the silver medal with Paul taking gold in the all-around individual competition. After the first three rounds, Paul was in a good position to medal, but a terrible fall during his vault brought him down to twelfth place and it appeared he was out of the running to get any type of medal. In fact, it was probably because a judge at the table helped to break Paul’s fall, that he didn’t completely fall off the podium and possibly sustain an injury. However, because of many other faults by the other gymnasts, as well as Paul’s great parallel bars performance, by the end of the fifth rotation he was in fourth place. He received a score of 9.837 on the high bar which gave him a gold medal win with only a .012 margin, which is the closest in the history of the Olympic Gymnastics. He also came very close to winning the Gold for the Horizontal bar, but after a tiebreaker he was awarded the silver medal.

The 2004 Olympics brought medal controversy for Paul Hammond for his Gold medal win in the men’s all-around, due to a scoring issue. The bronze medalist from South Korea, Yang Tae Young was incorrectly given a starting difficulty value of 9.9 instead of the 10.0 that his parallel bars routine truly reflected. The problem was really an issue with the judges who though he performed a different move in his routine, thus giving him a 0.100 lower starting value, which meant the difference between taking third and taking first place, or a difference between gold and bronze.

Yang eventually filed an appeal with the CAS or Court of Arbitration for Sports trying to get his score changed and be awarded the gold medal. The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) and Paul Hamm appeared before the CAS in Lausanne, Switzerland. On October 21, 2004 a three judge panel from CAS announced that Paul Hamm would keep his gold medal and the Olympic results would remain unchanged. This was a final decision and could not be appealed any further.

Both Paul and his brother Morgan took time off following the 2004 Olympics in Athens in order to focus more on their schooling at Ohio State University. In February 2007, they announced they would be returning to competitive gymnastics at would return for the coming 2007 U.S. Championships, commonly called the Visa Championships. Paul won the American Cup in March 2008 in New York City, his first win for this competition and he came through with a strong performance.

During the 2008 U.S. Championships, Paul competed on day one, but had to withdraw after that first day because of an injury to his hand. He had fractured his hand during his parallel bars routine. He underwent orthopedic surgery, but was not able to return to gymnastics until July of that year. Even after having to sit out during the Olympic Trials, Paul was still provisionally named to participate on the 2008 Olympic team, depending on the results of his recovery. He secured his spot on the 2008 Olympic team on July 19th when he performed in each of six events at an intersquad meet. However, on July 28th Paul had to withdraw from his spot on the 2008 U.S. Olympic gymnastics team because of continued pain in his hand as well as a new injury he incurred in his left shoulder as a result of trying to accelerate his recovery efforts. Paul was replaced on the team and even made comments that he would permanently retire from gymnastics.

In July 2010, Paul made the announcement that he wasn’t yet ready to retire from gymnastics. He had been working as a bonds and futures trader in Chicago, but quit his job and headed home to Waukesha, WI, to decide on where he would begin his comeback training. He plans to start full-time training in the hopes of making the U.S. team headed for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

Paul says that he hopes to be back competing by early 2011, hopefully in the Winter Classic which is typically held in February and if he performs well there, to earn a spot on the upcoming 2011 national team in order to secure his funding. The 2011 World Championships will be held in Tokyo in October. He plans to return as an all-around contender and will be among the elite if his skills have not diminished much during his time off from training and competing.

During his time in Chicago, Paul spent time working out and practicing some new tricks in the gym at the University of Chicago-Illinois. One of his new tricks is on the parallel bars and he might use it to replace a move he was doing in 2008 when he broke a bone in his hand.

A recent video of Paul working through routines on the parallel bars and pommel horse as well as some tricks performed cleanly on the high bar makes it look like he hasn’t been gone for very long from the world of competitive gymnastics. Claiming his skills have not changed much and with the code now rewarding gymnasts for packing more difficulty into their routines, he might be able to bring back some of his old tricks and showcase more of his talent. Paul is reading to make his comeback and compete in his third Olympic Games.

At only 27 years of age, he is still in his prime as a male gymnast, but of course, that won’t last much longer. For Paul, it is either a matter of making his come back now, or giving up on the idea altogether.