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U.S. team reconfigures
The U.S. men are heading to the Beijing Olympics, their eyes still on the medals podium.
Without reigning Olympic champion Paul Hamm, though, getting there is going to be a lot tougher.
"We all know we have work left to do," Olympic coach Kevin Mazeika said.
The Americans were fourth at last fall’s world championships, three missed routines from the bronze medal. Though only two members of that squad are back for Beijing, the U.S. men were confident they were better, sure to be medal contenders. Maybe not the gold, for which China is the heavy favorite, but certainly the silver or bronze.
That, though, was before Hamm withdrew from the U.S. team Monday, saying he wouldn’t be healthy enough to compete in Beijing. Hamm still is feeling pain in the right hand he broke on May 22, but the bigger problem could be a strained rotator cuff in his left shoulder.
Raj Bhavsar, picked to replace Hamm, is one of the Americans’ best on rings, parallel bars and vault, and consistency won’t be an issue on any event. But because of gymnastics’ complicated scoring format and Hamm’s all-around superiority, every one of the U.S. men is going to have to step up.
Even then, it might not be enough.