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Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Hamm details comeback victory on Letterman

Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm said Wednesday he would prefer not to share his gold medal with South Korea's Yang Tae-Young despite a judging mistake that ultimately cost Yang the gold.

In an interview on CBS' "The Late Show with David Letterman," Hamm was asked about having another gold medal issued for Yang.

"I personally feel in my heart I was the Olympic champion that night," Hamm said. "I would be a little bit upset if another gold medal was awarded because I really felt I won the event."

The studio audience agreed, applauding and chanting "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

After a disastrous fall on the vault, Hamm dropped from first place after three rotations to 12th after four. He followed with brilliant performances on the parallel bars and high bar, allowing him to edge Yang, who finished with the bronze, just 0.049 points behind.

But the judges failed to give Yang enough points for the level of difficulty on the parallel bars. That triggered an uproar, with South Korea lobbying for another gold medal.

Officials of the International Gymnastics Federation, or FIG, suspended three judges and acknowledged Yang should have been awarded more points for his routine based on the degree of difficulty. Had he been given the correct score, Yang would have won the gold and Hamm the silver.

The suspensions puzzled Hamm, who said a review of the tape also showed the judges missed a mistake in Yang's routine.

"What's unusual is these mistakes with the start scores are made all the time throughout these Olympics," Hamm said. "It was strange they ended up sanctioning those judges when other judges made those mistakes as well."

"So if you're upset about any of this," Letterman told the studio audience, "send your E-mails to FIG."

Hamm said his first days as an Olympic champion have not been what he expected, given the constant questions and suggestions of how he handle the mess.

"Do you mind if I bother you a little more?" Letterman quipped. "If you get fed up, just hit me with one of your medals."

Hamm detailed his amazing comeback victory in the all-around and his silver medal performance in the high bar, which was preceded by boos from the crowd because it was unhappy with a score given to the previous competitor, Russia's Alexei Nemov.

All the booing during the high bar competition left Hamm with few expectations as he began his routine, he said.

"I'd never been put in a situation like that before," he said.

To which Letterman replied, "I've had that where people start booing me Monday night and they are still booing on Tuesday."