Wed, Jul 30, 2008 - Page 20 News List

Injured Olympic champ Hamm to miss Beijing

AP , CHICAGO

Olympic champion Paul Hamm shows off his gloved hand during a press conference before the men’s first day of competition for the US Olympic gymnastics trials on June 19 in Philadelphia. 

PHOTO: AP

US gymnast Paul Hamm will not be going to the Beijing Olympics and defending his all-around title.

Hamm announced on Monday he was withdrawing from the US team because his broken right hand was not healthy enough for him to compete.

He also hurt his rotator cuff in his accelerated recovery effort.

“I have put my heart and soul into my comeback and done everything I could to get ready in time to compete in Beijing,” Hamm said in a statement released by USA Gymnastics.

“At this point in time, the success of the team and fairness to the team, and the alternates, is most important. While I am very disappointed, I feel I can wait no longer to make this decision,” he said.

He was replaced by Raj Bhavsar, part of the silver medal world championship teams in 2001 and 2003.

The US men are scheduled to leave on Wednesday, and competition begins on Aug. 9.

Hamm’s injury is a blow to the Americans, who were fourth at last year’s world championships and hoped his return — and that of twin Morgan — would get them back on the podium. It also clears the way for China’s Yang Wei in the all-around race. Yang, the two-time defending world champion, is so technically superior that Hamm is believed to be the only one who could challenge him.

Hamm broke his hand on May 22 at the national championships, just 11 weeks before the start of the games. He had surgery five days later and pushed his recovery in hopes he’d be healthy enough to help the Americans get back on the podium and defend his gold medal.

Hamm’s withdrawal likely ends the career of one of the best ever US gymnasts. He was the only American man to win the world (2003) and Olympic (2004) titles, and he led the US to a silver medal in Athens, its first at the Olympics in 20 years.

“We admire Paul for making this difficult decision,” said Steve Penny, president of USA Gymnastics. “Paul’s comeback this year has been phenomenal, made even more impressive following the injury to his hand.”

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