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Athens 2004

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August 23, 2004 11:38 pm

Amid controversy, Hamm adds silver

By VICKI MICHAELIS and JILL LIEBER

USA TODAY

ATHENS, Greece - Despite talk of compromise and amid more judging controversy, the head of the International Gymnastics Federation angrily tried to close the door on the possibility of a second gold medal being awarded in the men's all-around competition.

FIG President Bruno Grandi, badgered by reporters during Monday night's individual finals, reiterated his position that the results of last Wednesday's all-around will not be changed to elevate South Korea's Yang Tae-young from bronze to a tie with U.S. gold medalist Paul Hamm.

``I already made a decision,'' Grandi chided reporters before abruptly walking away. ``You don't respect the declaration I made.''

The International Olympic Committee earlier said it had no jurisdiction to change medals unless the governing body altered the results. Korea still plans to take its case to an arbitration panel, which is not assured of hearing it.

This came on a night when the U.S. and Korean Olympic committees publicly said they would be willing to accept a double gold medal in the all-around because of an admitted scoring mistake by FIG judges. One Korean appeal already has been denied, but three judges were suspended.

Hamm said he will abide by any decision governing bodies make but is not going to give back the medal on his own.

``I truly believe in my heart that I am the Olympic all-around champion,'' Hamm said Monday. ``If you open the door to video review, other things can be seen as well.

``At this point in time I am not planning to give over the medal. If the governing body decides I should, then I will.''

And it came on a night when Hamm overcame more turmoil to win silver in the high bar to go with his gold all-around and silver team medals.

Even this was not easy. By coincidence, Hamm competed after Russian Alexei Nemov received an unpopular score of 9.725. During a nearly 10-minute delay, the crowd booed and judges convened before raising the score to 9.762. But that did not calm the fans or put Nemov in medal contention. With Nemov asking the crowd to be quiet at Hamm's request, Hamm then stoically scored a 9.812. He wound up tying Italy's Igor Cassina, who was awarded gold based on a formulaic tie-breaker.

Hamm's all-around gold remains controversial because of a scoring error that could have lifted Yang from bronze to gold. The Koreans also claim they were prevented from appealing the difficulty value of Yang's routine at the proper time.

USOC officials met Sunday with their Korean counterparts, at the Koreans' request, to discuss the possibility of seeking a second gold medal for Yang. The USOC expressed its support of the idea Monday, as did Yoo Jae Soon, Korean delegation spokeswoman.

``That would be ideal, good for everybody - ideal,'' she said. ``All along, we wanted our own rights, not to take away Hamm's gold.''

Said USOC spokesman Darryl Seibel: ``The fact is, unfortunately, Paul has had some of the excitement taken away from his gold medal moment. We're working to find an equitable solution.''

- (Contributing: Michael Hiestand of USA TODAY)

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Olympics 2004 were games of education, enlightenment

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Biggest winner of 2004 Olympics: Greece

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Athens scores satisfying win

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