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Artemev: Hamm's Return Takes Pressure Off U.S. Men
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The return of Olympic champion Paul Hamm has reduced the pressure on the other members of the U.S. men's team, said 2006 U.S. champion Sasha Artemev.

"It make everybody work a lot harder, but at the same time it made our team way, way stronger," Artemev said. "It kind of [removed] some pressure off a lot of guys because he's so good on every event that we don't have to necessarily be perfect."

Sasha Artemev
Artemev will compete alongside Hamm and Raj Bhavsar at the Pacific Rim Championships Friday in San Jose, Calif.

Following a two-year layoff, Hamm made his return to competition at the 2007 U.S. Championships, also held in San Jose. He returned to international competition earlier this month in New York City, where he won the Tyson American Cup. Artemev finished second and Bhavsar finished sixth.

Artemev, 22, was a member of the U.S. men's team that finished 13th at the 2006 World Championships and fourth in team finals at the 2007 World Championships.

The American men's trio will be trying to recapture the team title when they take to the floor Friday evening. At the 2006 Pacific Alliance Championships (now known as the Pacific Rim Championships), the U.S. men finished out of the medals in fourth place, behind Japan, Canada and China.

"[My goal is] to hit pommel horse — I have a new pommel horse routine — and just to stay on the equipment," said Artemev, the bronze medalist on pommel horse at the 2006 Worlds. "Also to win, obviously, with the team, to beat every country out there."

At the U.S. Championships in August in San Jose, Artemev attempted a triple-twisting Yurchenko vault, but didn't land it cleanly. On Friday he plans to compete a safer Yurchenko 2 1/2 twist, though he still trains the triple-twisting version.

"Back home I play around with it but they won't let me do it now," he said with a laugh. "It's a pretty sketchy vault; you could get hurt pretty easily on it."

The Belarusian-born Artemev said his routines are mostly set for the Olympic year.

"On high bar I might add a skill before Visa (U.S.) Championships, a Tak-half," he said. "My p-bars, pommel horse are set. Vault too — no more triple twists for me for awhile, until at least after the Olympic cycle."

Log on to IG Online Friday at 1:30 p.m. PST for LIVE coverage of the Pacific Rim Championships in San Jose!
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