Olympic gymnasts pause competition to pursue degrees
The Hamm brothers may still attempt to qualify for the 2008 competition.
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) -- Olympic gold medalist Paul Hamm is taking a break.
Hamm and his twin brother, Morgan, have decided to focus on their education for the next 18 months. The twins, who are 22, haven't ruled out competing in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"To pursue my schooling with the same conviction and intensity with which I have given to gymnastics, I must temporarily set aside gymnastics in favor of schooling," Paul Hamm wrote in a letter to USA Gymnastics.
"I need to succeed in my undergraduate efforts well enough to qualify me to the graduate school and in the field of my choice.
"Early in 2007, I expect to make a decision regarding training for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China."
Paul Hamm did not return a message left by The Associated Press.
The Hamms transferred to Ohio State before the Athens Olympics, but didn't start classes until the spring semester.
The two are about two years from graduating; Paul is studying health and fitness management and Morgan physical therapy.
"The intensity of ... training has been at the expense of pursuing my educational goals," Morgan said in his letter to USA Gymnastics. "It is my intent for the next 18-24 months to concentrate on completing my undergraduate degree."
The two-time Olympians have been an integral part of the resurgence of U.S. men's gymnastics, culminating in last summer's showing in Athens.
Paul became the first U.S. man to win the all-around title, and the team won its first Olympic medal since 1984, a silver. Paul also won a silver on the high bar.
But if there's a good time for the twins to take off, this is it. There are world championships this year and next, but the ones in 2007 are key, with results there helping determine who goes to Beijing.
The International Gymnastics Federation, known as the FIG, also is considering overhauling its scoring system to replace the traditional 10.0 scale with an open-ended format. The FIG's executive committee isn't scheduled to vote on the proposal until October, so gymnasts won't have much time to tweak their routines before the new season begins.
Besides, the Hamms can use a break after the past year.
Paul won the Olympic all-around with one of the most spectacular comebacks in the sport's history, rallying from 12th place with only two events left.
But two days later, the International Gymnastics Federation announced that Yang Tae-young of South Korea had been wrongly docked a tenth of a point off the start value of his second-to-last routine, the parallel bars.
Yang finished third, 0.049 points behind Hamm. Add in the extra 0.100, and Yang would have finished 0.051 points ahead of the American. But that assumes everything in the final rotation played out the same way -- something no one can say with any certainty.
The FIG suspended three judges and said repeatedly it would not change the results because the South Koreans didn't protest until after the meet.
Yang continued to protest anyway, and it wasn't until two months after the Olympics that the Court of Arbitration for Sport declared Hamm the rightful champion.
"USA Gymnastics fully supports both Paul's and Morgan's desire to finish their education," federation president Steve Penny said in a statement.
"Paul and Morgan represent two of the best gymnasts in the world and have achieved a tremendous amount in the past few years.
"... We applaud their determination to achieve similar success in their education, and we hope they will decide to mount a campaign to qualify and compete in their third Olympic Games."