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Hamm earns berth on U.S. Olympic team

Published: Sun, July 20, 2008 @ 12:00 a.m.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) — Give Paul Hamm a hand. And a plane ticket to Beijing.

The Olympic champion will get to defend his title in China thanks to a performance Saturday that ended any doubt about whether his broken right hand has healed.

Eight weeks after the injury, Hamm needed to show competitive readiness at the final intrasquad meet before the U.S. team leaves for China. After watching the Ohio State student excel, then gathering for a short meeting, the men’s selection committee confirmed the 25-year-old defending all-around champion would be on the team.

“It’s been a wild ride for me every since my comeback into the sport,” Hamm said. “I’m just happy right now to be able to compete at this level.”

It was a typically classy effort from America’s best gymnast, though not exactly a stroll. Hamm grimaced and grunted his way through his rings routine and nearly fell during his high bar landing — signs that he needs the next three weeks to get in competitive shape.

But nobody expected perfection.

What they wanted to make sure of was that the hand had healed sufficiently, that his routines were rounding into form and that the spot awarded him after he petitioned his way through nationals and Olympic trials should still be his.

Answers: Yes, yes and yes.

“He’s a very experienced athlete, a very intelligent athlete and a very calculating athlete,” said men’s program director Dennis McIntyre. “From an emotional standpoint, it’s exciting to see how far he’s come. We have no doubt he’ll do what he needs to do to be ready.”

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