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Paul Hamm Makes History

By Author: tearsjoong
Total Articles: 51

He had to be perfect and hope no one else was.

Even Paul Hamm's coach figured it was over- " I thought he had no odds. "

Springing2 backward, he did 1 1/2 somersaults3, but he didn't get enough height on the twists and hit the mat in a crouch4. There was no time to stabi¬lize5

himself, his left leg crossing over the right and sending him on a sicke¬ning6 stumble7.

"I don't know how that happened," he said. " I felt good in the air. "

The crowd gasped as he fell sideways and backed off the mat, hitting the edge of the judges' table before he plopped down, a stunned look on his face. "He

got up and walked off the podium9, shaking his head and thinking he'd probably just cost himself the gold.

"I was very upset and depressed," Hamm said. "I felt I let myself down10. "

He looked dazed when he saw his score of 9.137, which dropped him 12th place.

"I thought, that's it. I'm done," he said.

Far from it. In one of the most amazing comebacks in Olympic history, Hamm performed the two most spectacular routines of his career Wednesday to win the

gold medal by the closest margin ever in the event. "

"I'm happy right now. Shocked, actually," said Hamm, the first American man to win the Olympic all-around event. "To be in first place after that kind of

mistake, I thought there was no chance to win. "

The final competitor of the night, Hamm needed a 9.825 on the high bar, his best event, to tie Kim Dea-eun12 for gold—and he was dazzling13. The high-

Iight14of his routine is three straight release moves, and he did them perfectly.

Hamm threw himself up and over the bar, catching it on the way down once, twice and then a third time, soaring15higher with each toss. His dismount16 was

perfect, and he hit the mat with a solid thud before thrusting his fists into the air and throwing his head back in jubilation17. He waved at the roaring

crowd and then sprinted18off the podium clapping his hands while his coach jumped up and down on the sideline.

Hamm finished with 57.823 points, beating Kim by .012.

"I thought maybe I could get first," Kim said. "I'm rather disappointed and angry, in a way. "

"The only thing I can say is that the USA got something more than it deserv-ed19,'^ boy said.

But as defending world champion, Hamm is going to get the benefit of the doubt. And really, anyone who watched his last two routines could hardly argue with

the final results.

"It was one of the most amazing comebacks in gymnastics history," said a US teammate," He's so determined20not to fail. "

In Athens, after an ugly fall, Hamm becomes first U. S. man to win all-around title.

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