Protest benefits Nemov, but Cassina and Hamm place 1-2
Among women, American Carly Patterson added a silver on the beam to her all-around championship.
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- The sport known for beauty and grace also has an ugly side.
Who knew people could get so fired up about a gymnastics meet?
For 10 minutes, the crowd booed and whistled, creating a deafening roar. American Paul Hamm, the all-around champion, was forced to sit around and wait, unable to start his routine because of the noise.
"I felt like I was in a movie," Hamm said.
A rough week in gymnastics finally got to the fans Monday during a bizarre evening. Hamm was able to block out the noise and win a silver medal on high bar. Four-time Olympic gold medalist Alexei Nemov finished fifth, much to the chagrin of the crowd.
The top three
Hamm scored a 9.812, tying Igor Cassina for first, but the Italian won a tie-breaker to take the gold. Japan's Isao Yoneda won bronze.
American Carly Patterson added a silver medal on the beam to her all-around championship from last week. It gave the U.S. women their sixth medal of the games.
A nice moment, to be sure, but it was the high bar routine that everybody wanted to see this night.
The showdown, on the last event of the nine days of gymnastics, was supposed to be between Hamm and Yang Tae-young of South Korea, who won bronze in the all-around instead of gold last week because of a scoring error.
But Nemov changed all that.
Flying like a circus acrobat, "Sexy Alexei" put together the most daring performance of the 10 men on the high bar. He did six release moves, four in a row and two more with somersaults as he flew backward over the bar.
To the untrained eye, it looked nearly perfect.
Except one thing.
"Sometimes there's a difference between what the people think they saw and what the judges think they saw," USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi said.
Maybe that's why fans pretty much ignored the big step forward Nemov took when he landed. And maybe that's what started the furor when Nemov's score popped up, a 9.725 that ranked him last among the three gymnasts who had gone to that point.
"Totally unbelievable," said John Roethlisberger, a three-time member of the American Olympic team. "I've never seen a crowd actually call for a judges' meeting and get one."
But that's what happened.
About five minutes into the booing, the judges huddled and the Malaysian member of the panel, Kin Kin Teh, changed his score. It boosted Nemov to a 9.762, but still kept him third.
When the meet was over, after Hamm and Cassina pushed him down to fifth, Nemov said he deserved at least a bronze.
"It was a little unfair," he said. "Everything is already decided before. Maybe just a small mistake and that gives them the opening to put me down. That's not right."
Twirling after the 10-minute break -- "Talk about putting a guy on ice," Colarossi said -- Hamm was practically flawless. He executed his trademark three straight release moves without any problem, took a slight step forward on the landing and received a 9.812, a mark that easily outdistanced Nemov.
It was also met with raucous boos.
Next came Cassina, who put on a great performance for another 9.812. A complex tie-breaking formula put him ahead of Hamm and gave him a surprise championship.