Star-Bulletin Sports

Friday, March 30, 2001


Paul, left, and Morgan Hamm, 18-year-old fraternal twins,
competed at last year's Olympics in Sydney. Their mother
says they showed an inclination toward gymnastics at an early age.

Hamms got a
jump on gymnastics

By Grace Wen

For Morgan and Paul Hamm, daredevil feats and tumbling in the air came naturally.

But doing it together wasn't always the easy part for the 18-year-old fraternal twins.

As kids, it was Paul who began gymnastics first after watching older sister Betsy in her classes. "I kind of wanted to do it right away," Paul said. "I saw my sister and I was like 'Wow, that looks like fun. I want to do that."

Morgan started a month later after he saw the fun Paul had.

In 1999, Paul made his first Senior National team. Morgan followed suit six months later.

The 2000 Olympians almost weren't able to be together in Sydney last year. Although Paul had already earned his spot on the United States roster, finishing second at the Olympic trials, Morgan had to wait to be named by the selection committee.

Though Morgan finished sixth at the trials, his strong performances in the vault and floor exercises literally vaulted him ahead of Jamie Natalie, the fifth-place finisher. Had it not been for that solid finish by Morgan, half the dynamic duo might have been watching from home in Wisconsin.

"My defining moment was at trials, because I actually made the Olympic team," Morgan said. "I was right on the edge of not making it. So if I didn't make it, I would be not going to the Olympics with my brother and back in school watching him from the United States. Making the team changed my life because I got to do all of that with my brother."

It is safe to say that the brothers Hamm have undergone quite a few changes in the past two years and especially in the last six months. Following the Olympics, the two went on tour before returning to school.

Upon their return, they learned about the more difficult Code of Points adopted by the International Federation of Gymnastics and have been training at full speed.

The rules aren't the only things to have changed, as their coach of 11 years, Stacy Maloney, points out.

"Their gymnastics is more dynamic, more confident," Maloney said.

"Their strength has increased tremendously in the last year. On floors they're two of the best tumblers in the whole world right now in terms of sheer power and difficulty that they're able to do.

"They've become a lot more confident in gymnastics and they hold themselves to a higher standard since they went to the Olympics."

Cecily Hamm, the twins' mother, witnessed the beginnings of Morgan and Paul's gymnastics career.

According to Cecily, the twins always seemed to have a knack for climbing. The family used to live on a farm with an old barn.

As kids, the two would play tag and chase each other across rafters 12 to 20 feet high.

Then, there was another time when she found Morgan and Paul, at age two, sitting on top of the refrigerator.

"They just climbed," said Cecily, by telephone from Waukesha. "Some kids never think to leave the ground, and other kids climb and swing. If you watched them as kids chasing each other around the rafters, they always had that daredevil side. They're just built to do this kind of stuff. It's kind of nice that its directed."

Now, the two have successfully channeled their energy into the gym, where they push each other in their training. In fact, Paul has adopted somewhat of a leadership role, though he describes it a little differently.

"I'm a little bit more bossy than Morgan is," Paul said. "Morgan always says that about me and I kind of agree with him."

And though Paul may boss Morgan around sometimes, the two are thrilled to be together. As Morgan says, "It's a really good team effort to progress in gymnastics and life."

2001 Pontiac
American Team Cup

Where: Neal Blaisdell Center
When: Men -- 7 p.m. today, Women -- 7 p.m. tomorrow
Tickets: $20 lower level, $15 upper level. Available at the Neal BlaisdellCenter box office (591-2211) or through Ticket Plus (526-4400 or

Note: An incorrect schedule ran yesterday. We apologize for any inconvenience it may have caused.

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