How’re we doin’? The results are in

Photo by KEVIN KRECK, THE GAZETTE

Paul Hamm showed he's ready for the Olympics, then gave warning to the host nation and its most accomplished gymnast.

"They should be worried," Hamm said of China. "I guess Yang Wei should be a little worried, too. He's probably counting on me being out."

Eight weeks after he broke his right hand, Hamm had his spot in the Beijing Games confirmed Saturday by displaying competitive readiness during an intrasquad meet at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs.

A USA Gymnastics selection committee determined the 2004 Olympic all-around gold medalist is healthy enough to try to upset Yang, the two-time defending all-around world champion.

Using partial routines, Hamm, 25, of Waukesha, Wis., looked fatigued on the rings and stumbled on his vault, parallel bars and high bar landings but executed on the pommel horse and wowed a crowd of more than 1,200 with a dynamic floor exercise.

"I can be competitive with any of the athletes out there if all of my routines are together," said Hamm, the first American man to win an Olympic all-around gold medal. "You never know what can happen in the Olympic Games. I may end up getting there, and my hand will feel fine and my endurance will come back."

Hamm fractured his fourth metacarpal May 22 at the national championships in Houston, catching his ring finger while performing on the parallel bars.

He had a titanium plate and nine small screws inserted in his hand, and Ohio doctor Lawrence Lubbers mixed Hamm's cells with a cadaver's bone material around the break to make it heal faster.

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A successful petition prevented Hamm from having to compete last month at the U.S. Olympic trials and paved his way onto a team that includes his twin brother, Morgan, OTC resident Joseph Hagerty, Jonathan Horton, Justin Spring and Kevin Tan.

Chances are Hamm's hand - about 90 percent healed, limiting his parallel bars routine and some rolling aspects of his floor exercise - won't be 100 percent by the time the U.S. undergoes team qualifying Aug. 9 in Beijing.

"Three weeks ago, he was just sitting there," Morgan Hamm said. "He couldn't do a tumble. He couldn't do a handstand. He couldn't do hardly anything. Now, he's out there doing routines and looking like he's pretty close to being in Olympic shape."

Added Spring: "You see that a lot of times with the elite competitors. I wouldn't have expected anything less from Paul."

Hamm emphasized the need for patience with his hand.

"The stronger my hand gets, the more I do the tricks again, the more comfortable I'll feel doing them," he said. "I'm already noticing that. It's all about progression. When you're making a comeback into the sport, it's never going to be instantaneous."

 

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