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Has Paul Hamm Really Retired?
(1 vote, average 1.00 out of 5)

Paul Hamm's last-minute withdrawal from the U.S. Olympic team gave Raj Bhavsar reason to believe in the system that he felt had short-changed him in 2004, when he was an alternate in Athens. That's where Bhavsar, a noted ringman, sat in the stands and watched the U.S. concede .887 to Japan on rings. In the end, Japan defeated the U.S. for the gold by .888.

• Though it wasn't a complete surprise that Bhavsar was added to the U.S. team, I thought Alexander Artemev had a shot. The Americans are much weaker on pommel horse than on rings, but as Artemev proved (to his own detriment) during the trials process, horse is harder to hit than rings. From an age standpoint, Artemev, 22, has a better shot at 2012 than Bhavsar, 27.

Chellsie Memmel's selection to the Olympic team is certainly one of the feel-good stories of 2008, considering her ill-timed injury four years ago. Her situation in 2004, when she broke a bone in her foot on balance beam, wasn't too different from that of fellow Wisconsin native Paul Hamm this year. Both just needed more time to heal.

• On Monday, July 28, Hamm told reporters he was finished with competitive gymnastics, but perhaps time will temper the frustration he is obviously feeling right now. It killed me to see him skip the last three world championships while at his gymnastics peak, but I understand that other factors played a part in that decision. Still, as tennis now thrives via the Roger Federer-Rafael Nadal rivalry, gymnastics could have benefitted from a few more Hamm-Yang Wei duels.

At 25, Hamm still has some good years left, and he's one of the most complete all-arounders ever. So I'm hopeful he'll reconsider and extend his comeback. Heck, he's 10 years younger than Jordan Jovtchev, who's about to compete in his fifth Olympics.

• 2008 U.S. champion David Sender says he's been going to the gym "a few times a week" since rolling an ankle prior to the Olympic trials. He has one more quarter left at Stanford, and is in the process of applying to veterinary schools. I asked him about the current situation with the U.S. men's team. "Unfortunately, with the team that they made, they kind of put all their eggs in one basket, assuming or hoping that Paul (Hamm) would be healthy and ready to go on all six events," he said. "Without him, there are a lot of holes to fill."

I wonder if Sender, who is only 22, will compete again, and mentioned to him that he had a national title to defend next summer. He chuckled with a hint of irony and said, "We'll see."

When asked if he had any interest in, say, the 2009 World Championships, Sender offered, "Right now I really have no reason to make a decision one way or another." Later in our conversation, he added, "I do still miss it. I definitely still have a passion for the sport. It's just a matter of whether or not I want to put up with it still, I guess."

Even though that sounds like a loaded statement, I'm taking it as a maybe. And if Sender feels as if the rug got pulled out from under him at the trials, I think the U.S. men's program should roll out the red carpet to keep such a talented gymnast around.

• The integrity of track and field has suffered tremendously because of its long history of steroid use, and now gymnastics is in the news because of questionable ages of certain Chinese gymnasts. The New York Times did some digging and found a few published birth dates for He Kexin and Jiang Yuyuan that suggest they are too young to compete in the Olympics this year. This is not new to gymnastics, but for some reason it doesn't seem to gain much traction. I suppose it's because there is no reliable testing for passports.

• I am interested to see how the Romanian women fare in Beijing, considering they are the defending Olympic champions. But 2004 was under the old reign of Octavian Belu and Mariana Bitang, both of whom will be in Beijing under new titles. Belu is the Minister of Sport for Romania, and Bitang is the Consiliere to Romanian President Traian Basescu.

With Belu and Bitang looking on from the VIP seats, Nicolae Forminte will coach his first Olympic team for Romania, which has won a team medal in every Olympics since 1976, including three golds (1984, 2000, 2004). Think he's feeling any pressure?

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