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Sunday, April 18, 2004



[ GYMNASTICS ]


art
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Ling Yi Wu, of Taipei, performed on the vault during last night's gymnastics competition at the Stan Sheriff Center.


Hamms hit
the mark

Morgan and Paul Hamm
led the U.S. to 13 medals
in the event finals


Identical twins Morgan and Paul Hamm have shared just about everything. Their first Olympics, a room in college and a sport they excel in.

Yesterday, they shared their first gymnastics medal before an exuberant crowd of 3,674 people at the Stan Sheriff Center. The Hamms tied for bronze in the pommel horse with a matching score of 9.587.

"Obviously they did quite well," their coach, Miles Avery, said. "They've been training with this competition in mind. It's obviously been the focal point of the first half of the year for us.

"Them training together. ... They do everything for each other. That is very special for them to have that."

Earlier in the night, the Hamms led off with strong performances on the floor exercise, the first rotation of the event finals.

Morgan Hamm was spectacular from start to finish. He whirled effortlessly on the floor doing his flare work and didn't miss on his tumbling passes. When his feet landed on his final pass, Hamm closed his hands in a double fist pump knowing he had nailed it.

"That's one of the best routines I've ever done. I was so excited," said Morgan, who earned a 9.75 for the routine. "For me, that routine right there, I'd love to do that at the Olympic Games. That could potentially win. If I could repeat that performance, I could come away with the gold.

"I was really happy I didn't miss a routine the whole time (at the Pacific Alliance Championships). If I can keep up that consistency, then making the Olympic team can be a dream come true."


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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Paul Hamm, of the United States, performed on the vault last night during individual competition at the Stan Sheriff Center.


Morgan was clearly a notch above Paul, who followed with a similar routine that received a 9.725. But Paul Hamm medaled in all five of the events he competed in, with golds on vault and high bar, a silver on floor and bronzes on pommel horse and parallel bars.

"It's great coming here and having a great meet," Paul Hamm said. "I'm looking forward to building up for the U.S. Championships and the Olympic trials."

His final routine of the evening on the high bar drew wild applause from the crowd, which echoed its appreciation for his three consecutive release moves.

The Hamms' 1-2 finish was just the beginning for the U.S., which hauled in 13 medals in the event finals.

Katie Heenan (uneven bars, 9.712), Alicia Sacramone (vault, 9.418) and Carly Patterson (balance beam, 9.787) won gold in their respective events. All-around champion Allyse Ishino scored a silver on floor.

It was a big confidence booster for Heenan, who won a World Championship bronze medal in 2001, but has not performed up to par in big meets.

"It was so exciting. I had so much fun," Heenan said. "I was a little shaky in practices leading up to when we got here, so right away I concentrated on that. If I can get into the zone to make my routine ... especially today, I was confident in myself and my abilities to hit that routine.

"Going up last, kind of not being as fresh off the bar, the hardest part of (the routine) was being last."


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RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hsiang Lin, of Taipei, competed on the pommel horse last night at the Stan Sheriff Center.


Sacramone never dealt with confidence issues. From the moment she stepped onto the runway, she looked supremely sure that she would nail her vaults. Sacramone didn't even warm up on her second vault, having hit it the day before in the team competition.

"I was pretty confident," said Sacramone, who helped Heenan on the bars by dusting them off. "Those were some of my best vaults. I've been having so much fun."

The smile was back on Patterson's face as she captured gold in her two event finals. Her floor exercise was scored a 9.725. Along with her beam score, Patterson had the two highest scores of the evening on the four women's apparatus.

"It feels really good," Patterson said. "I tried to put my mistake (on Friday's uneven bars) behind me and tried to do my best today."

The U.S. finish was just the icing on the cake for USA gymnastics president Bob Colarossi, who was pleased with the championships overall.

"This is a great, great competition and not just because we've done so well," said Colarossi, who had a very satisfied smile on his face. "The community has been great. We did everything we came here to do."

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