Paul Hamm of the USA on the rings, seen on the rings, was the only U.S. man to compete in all six events on opening night at the Pacific Alliance Championships at the Stan Sheriff Center.

U.S. men win
team gold

The Americans come back to
beat Japan and China at the
Pacific Alliance Championships

A slow start ended in a dazzling and dominating finish yesterday for the USA men's gymnastics team.

China opened on top and stayed there for three rotations before the U.S. made a spectacular push in the final three events to overcome its international rival in the Pacific Alliance Championships. A sparse crowd at the Stan Sheriff Center saw the U.S. claim the team gold with a final score of 169.895. Japan (164.945) edged China (163.962) for second in the final rotation.

Paul Hamm, the reigning world champion, led the U.S. charge. Hamm took home first in the all-around with a total score of 57.265. He was the only U.S. gymnast to compete in all six events. China's Bo Lu was second, followed by Canada's David Kikuchi. The top eight in each event qualify for tomorrow's event finals with a maximum of two representatives per country.

The U.S. got off to a solid though not spectacular start on the still rings. Jason Gatson led the U.S., scoring a 9.516 with a series of iron and Maltese crosses that demonstrated his strength. He nailed a double-twisting, double-back landing that put him in fifth place in the all-around. China's Rongjie Li took the early lead with a 9.7 on the vault.

The U.S. was in third after the first rotation and moved into second with a score of 55.948 behind the strength of Hamm's vaulting. Hamm got some height on his first vault and earned a 9.5. He led off with a round-off entry into a back handspring with a 2.5 twist. Only a step sideways on the landing kept the vault from being scored higher.

Shuhei Nakamura of Japan performed on the pommel horse last night at the Pacific Alliance Championships.

The U.S. (83.598) trailed China (85.031) by 1.433 through three events, which is normally a difficult gap to make up. But three solid routines on the high bar from Hamm and Gatson launched the U.S. into first after the fourth rotation.

"We knew we needed to start building a little bit after those because they weren't our strongest events," Hamm said. "We started building a lot of momentum with high bar. From there on out, we just kept on rocking routine after routine."

Hamm led the U.S. with a fabulous effort on the high bar that included three consecutive release moves and a full twisting, double-back landing with a small step that the judges rewarded with a 9.650. Since redeeming himself last summer at the World Championships on the high bar, Hamm has seen his confidence continue to grow on the event.

"My confidence is a lot higher now because I changed the routine," Hamm said. "It's a little bit simpler routine with less releases. When I go to high bar now, it's much more comfortable."

Twin brother Morgan Hamm scored a 9.483 on the high bar, while Gatson was great too with a routine that the judges gave a 9.6. The high bar was clearly a strength for the U.S., as McCain, whose score didn't count in the team standings, received a 9.533.

It also helped that China faltered on the floor with scores of 8.3, 8.966 and 9.0.

The U.S.'s momentum carried over to the floor exercise. The Hamms were dynamic again, with Morgan scoring a 9.6 and Paul receiving a 9.566. Both had terrific first tumbling passes that looked effortless. McCain's routine was a 9.416 and the cumulative team score of 28.582 was nearly two points ahead of China's 26.649 on the pommel horse. The U.S. led 140.913 to China's 137.946 with one rotation to go.

"I did OK," said McCain, who breathed a sigh of relief after his floor routine. "I'm happy that I was able to elevate as the team did. ... People start doing good and you start feeling that energy. It was a really good competition."

Malaysia's Shu Wai Ng performed on the parallel bars during last night's Pacific Alliance Championships at the Stan Sheriff Center.

2004 Pacific Alliance Championships

Yesterday's results

Hoop--1. Mary Sanders, USA, 25.425; 2. Svetlana Poutintseva, Russia, 23.750; 3. Irina Kazakova, Russia, 23.450; 4. Lisa Wang, USA, 22.675; 5. Alexandra Orlando, Canada, 22.650; 6. Marina Shpeht, Russia, 22.350; 7. Olga Karmansky, USA, 22.075; 8. Cynthia Valdez, Mexico, 21.850; 9. Penelope Blackmore, Australia, 21.275; 10. Hui Yee See, Malaysia, 20.650.
Ball--1. Mary Sanders, USA, 22.225; 2. Alexandra Orlando, Canada, 21.100; 3. Svetlana Poutinseva, Russia, 21.050; 4. Marina Shpeht, Russia, 20.825; 5. Irina Kazakova, Russia, 20.350; 6. Lisa Wang, USA, 20.150; 7. Pamela Jewell, Canada, 18.650; 8. Cynthia Valdez, Mexico, 18.075; 9. Olga Karmansky, USA, 17.775; 10. Eliza Gower, Australia, 17.550.

1. Paul Hamm, USA, 57.265; 2. Bo Lu, China, 55.482; 3. David Kikuchi, Canada, 55.149; 4. Shuhei Nakamura, Japan, 54.933; 5. Grant Golding, Canada, 54.581; 6. Jorge Giraldolopez, Col, 54.415; 7. Ryosuke Baba, Japan, 53.947; 8. Hungpin Yu, Taipei, 53.649; 9. Shuwai Ng, Malaysia, 53.097; 10. Joel Moss, Australia, 52.314.


Emerging star loves

16-year-old Carly Patterson is the
favorite for tonight's women's events
at the Sheriff Center

It is hard to believe that Carly Patterson could be afraid of anything.

The 16-year-old wonder gymnast soars effortlessly through the air, usually some 8 to 10 feet off the ground, depending on the apparatus. She touches down with ease, ready and unafraid to fly again.

But get her into the water with sea life and it's a different story.

"The water was really cold and I was scared of the fish," Patterson said of her snorkeling experience in Honolulu three years ago. "I stayed in the shallow end. I'm used to being off the ground, but they (the fish) scare me."

Patterson crammed a lot of activities into two days the last time she was in Honolulu in 2001 for the Pontiac American Cup. There was hula dancing, lei making, hiking, a catamaran ride and snorkeling after she captured first place in the all-around.

There won't be as much free time this year, with Team USA getting Sunday off before team members scatter to their respective homes. It is an Olympic year and Patterson has sensed a difference.

"There's a little more intensity, I guess, just knowing that it's here," Patterson said. "There's no more time to waste and you always have to try your best so you are ready, 'cause it comes up quickly."

Patterson's best comes when the stakes are higher. The adrenaline feeds her and makes her perform better. Her mental strength is what separates her from other gymnasts of equal skill.

"Certainly the gymnastics skills are important ... but the question is who is able to present the best routine of the moment when the most important moment comes up, and that makes a champion," said women's national team coordinator Martha Karolyi, who has trained many of the world's finest gymnasts along with husband Bela Karolyi. "That's a lot of mental and psychological ability of the gymnast to perform the best.

"Some gymnasts, even if they prepare, the pressure and the stress makes them kind of break. But others are able to produce even more and Carly is one of them. She's very confident of her abilities and she is not getting panicked even if any adverse situations come up. She's able to handle it and go through it and perform."

Patterson is poised to make a huge splash this summer in the Athens Olympics and perhaps be the next American gymnast to reach single-name stardom. The World Championship all-around silver medalist is the favorite to win tonight's all-around competition of the Pacific Alliance Championships that features three of the top four finishers at last summer's World Championships in the U.S., Australia and China. Also competing for the U.S. women's team, which was chosen last week after training camp, are Allyse Ishino, Alicia Sacramone and world team gold medalist Katie Heenan.

Honolulu has been good for Patterson. It was in Hawaii three years ago that Martha Karolyi knew she had the makings of a budding star. Patterson was a junior national team member at the time and the youngest on the U.S. squad. She succeeded where her veteran teammates could not. The balance beam had proven tricky for anyone who approached it and no one had managed to stay on for their entire routine except Patterson. She scored a 9.75 and that's when Karolyi knew she had someone special.

"I said this girl will be somebody, and that's exactly what happened," Karolyi said. "She's just very, very confident and very talented."


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