Olympic Stars - The Hamms

3:53 PM

By: Talitha Gonzalez - Thanks to my sister for sending in this report on Foxtel's (Australian Pay TV Provider) new show "Olympic Stars" which I think was produced for the 2008 Olympics?

I managed to catch the opening of this episode which was looking at the Athens 2004 Olympics. Paul Hamm was featured in the Opening! I remember watching the Opening Ceremony in awe. The mythology I didn't understand at the time, but I thought it was cool! 2.001 nations participated in the Games, with Afghanistan participating in its first Games since their participation was restored in 2002. There were 301 medal events in 28 sports. 

All eyes were on American superstar Michael Phelps who was a part of a media frenzy that year - with sponsors offering him $1 million if he could surpass the record held by great Mark Spitz who won gold in the seven swimming events he participated in at the Munich Olympic Games. Phelps remembers looking at Olympic history and seeing who had won the most in an Olympics, he mentions Spitz and Aleksandr Dityatin. However Australian Ian Thorpe and a bronze medal in 4x100m freestyle relay. His six golds and two bronzes meant he equaled the haul of Soviet gymnast Dityatin who won eight medals in one Olympic Games. Dityatin won medals in team, all around and all six apparatus finals in the 1980 Olympic Games. 

Onto the Diving - where China was showing their mastery of the sport. The nation took out six of the eight gold medals available. In the Men's 3m Synchronized Springboard, Greece's Thomas Bimis and Nikolaos Siranidis finished as surprise Gold medalists! 

Dutch cyclist Leontien van Moorsel was a favorite to dominate the Cycling after winning three Golds and a silver at the 2000 Olympics. A fall in the road race left her bruised and concussed with doctors unsure whether she could still participate in the remaining events at the Olympics. Three days later, however she surprised the World by taking out the title in the Time Trial and then finished her campaign with a bronze in the 3km Pursuit.

PAUL AND MORGAN HAMM are the first family of American Gymnastics. Paul says "a lot of people have a tough time telling me from my brother". Morgan said that they have been living together their whole lives". One of the fastest ways to tell them apart is their noses - when you look at them side on Morgan's nose is definitely different. When asked if there was any type of rivalry between them, Paul says when it comes to Gymnastics, the answer is no but in other things the answer is definitely "Yes". They are also very professional when it comes to Gymnastics. "We push each other, we help motivate each other and for the most part, we want each other to do well. The Hamm twins represented USA as 17-year-olds at the Sydney Olympics before coach Miles Avery began to build on their potential. Miles said "I first meet them when they were about 13-14 years old and they were tremendous young athletes. I actually started working with them in 2003 right after the World Championships in California and then we went on to Athens Olympic team". 

Elder twin Paul was considered a strong pick in the All Around competition. An event no American had previously won. His campaign started well (cue part of his Floor and Pommel Horse routines). After the first three apparatuses he had formed a narrow 0.380 lead (cue Still Rings dismount). And then they show "that vault" where he almost crashes into the Judge's table. Paul says "I remember when I was running down the vault runway everything felt good. I hit the springboard and I was in the air and it really didn't feel bad. Everything was going to be okay but as it was lacking a little bit of the power that I had in previous competitions, I ended up coming down a little bit crooked and once I landed there was no recovering. I was off-balance and stumbling right into the Judge's table. Morgan says "I was like. I was shocked. I kinda like, my face just dropped. I was thinking that's the end of it, he's probably not going to win a medal". Miles said "we certainly had planned and trained to win the Olympics and we thought that that had now gone." Paul said "Oh my god, it's over. There's no way I could possibly win. I've never heard of an Olympic gymnast competing in the All Around and falling and still having the ability to win". Avery said "we need to do the best performances of your life in these last two events. You need to go at least a 9.800 and he hadn't done that in competition yet". 

Whilst showing his Parallel Bars routine, Paul says "I'd been taught throughout my career to never give up during a competition. You never know what's going to happen during the final rotation. Going into that final event I knew I needed to do a spectacular performance but I didn't know how spectacular of a performance. I just knew I was close. I remember being around 4th or 5th place. I was I like I might even be able to possibly win this competition. During my high bar routine I have a pretty risky routine and I usually do a lot of releases. When I got to the part when I'm letting go of the bar and flying through the air. I knew at the point that it felt perfect. I remember hitting the ground, it just hits me like a nail, I put my arms in the air and just really knew that I'd not only made a huge comeback but that I had the potential of possibly winning that competition". Morgan says "when he  landed his dismount on high bar it was amazing and I went wild." Miles said "When I looked up and saw that 9.837 and his name pop to the top of the leader board and I went to him and said you know you're the Olympic Champion, and he said no, no. And I said yes, yes you are the Olympic Champion". 

Paul said "I didn't believe it at first because I was thinking was that possible? Like could I have possibly done that. And then it hit me and it was the most incredible feeling. I remember going to the stand and seeing my family and waving to them. It was basically pandemonium. There was more than just individual glory for the Hamms, with them being the core of USA in the team event. And for that the two of them were incredibly grateful. The brothers' story caught the imagination of the American public with them making it onto the People magazine's list of 50 Most Eligible Bachelors in 2004 and doing the rounds of talk shows. After Athens however they decided to devote themselves to their studies at Ohio State University and take a complete break from competitive gymnastics for two years, where then then decided to take a run at the 2008 Olympics. 

British rower Sir Matthew Pinsent CBE was part of the winning Coxless Fours winning his fourth Gold medal at an Olympic Games. He won the Coxless Pairs in 1992 and 1996. And with James Cracknell won the 2000 Coxless Fours (with Steve Redgrave, and Tim Foster) and in 2004 (with Steve Williams and Ed Coode) after winning by 0.08 of a second. After which Pinsent decided to retire. 

German Birgit Fischer a kayaker who represented Germany was also profiled. At her fifth Olympics in 2000 she carried the flag at the Opening Ceremony. After deciding to come back for yet another Olympics. In her career, she first competed at the Olympics for East Germany, where she won 3 gold and 1 silver and then for Germany where 5 gold medals and 3 silver. 

Zhang Ning, Badminton player from China had never won an Olympic medal until 2004. In the final, she faced Mia Audina of The Netherlands where she decisively took the final set to win her first Olympic title. China also dominated the Table Tennis where Zhang Yining took a clean sweep of the Women's gold medals - paired with Wang Nan for the Women's doubles. Ryu Seung-Min of South Korea overcame the highly fancied Wang Hao of China for the Men's Singles title, proving that the Chinese were not invincible. Men's Tennis saw Chile's Nicolas Massu steal the show when he won the Men's singles title over Mardy Fish (USA) and then clinched the Doubles with compatriot Fernando Gonzalez over Germany's Nicolas Kiefer and Rainer Schuttler. 

For many participants its about just that participation. Take the Iraqi football team who were able to take some refuge from the war going on while participating in Athens. The coach said that although their preparation was minimal they were able to succeed. They reached the Semi-Final, helping the country to temporarily forget the war in the hard times that they were facing. The final was a fancied clash between South American powers Argentina and Paraguay, with Argentina finishing on top. In the Basketball, Argentina who had surprised the USA with a defeat in the Semis, finished off the job with victory over Italy.  

There was so much pride in hosting the Olympic Games from Greece! No one more so than Pyrros Dimas - the weightlifter who carried the flag in the opening ceremony. The three-time Olympic Champion fought hard, but was recovering from knee surgery. Although winning the bronze, it was a reception of gold medal proportions. 

The shot put competition was held in the original stadium. USA's Adam Nelson was the favorite going into the final round where Ukraine's Yuriy Bilonoh final throw matched Nelson's distance and he was put ahead after a countback was applied. Nelson's final throw would have been long enough to go into the gold medal position, but his foot left the circle. Britain's Kelly Holmes, who won the 800m and 1500m went home a national treasure and was seriously adored by the public. She described it as manic and surprising. American 4x100m where highly fancied to win the gold, however they were stunned at the finish with Great Britain winning after much smoother baton changes. Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj was a proud Goal Keeper playing football growing up in Morocco. His mother encouraged him to swap to running after it was her who had to wash the muddy Football kit. After 2000 he was stunned and had to see a psychologist to recover and to encourage him to continue in the sport.... he came back to the Olympics in Athens and claimed both the 1,500m and 5,000m becoming the first man since Paavo Nurmi to complete the double. He retired two years later. 

Yelena Isinbayeva says opinion was divided over whether she was a favorite or not. She said it meant that she had no pressure on her. Told herself on her final attempt that she had no right to lose. Couldn't believe she won the Pole Vault title in Athens. Her secret to her success - her relationship with her pole!

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