Official: Hamm's exit not dampening U.S. confidence for medal

2008-07-29 08:23:36 GMT       2008-07-29 16:23:36 (Beijing Time)       Xinhua English

By sportswriters Li Li and Song Ying

BEIJING, July 29 (Xinhua) -- Paul Hamm's absence will not dampen the U.S. team's confidence to strike a gymnastics medal in the Beijing Olympics, a U.S. team official in Beijing said on Tuesday.

Hamm, reigning Olympic champion on men's all-around, announced his withdrawal from the U.S. Olympic team on Monday, out of time recovering from his broken right hand.

While his exit is a blow to the Americans, who were fourth at last year's world championships and hoped his return can upgrade the team's performance, but the U.S. Olympic team's coordinator Sun Yuejin said that their team is still confident to pocket a medal in Bejing's competition starting on August 9th.

"It's definitely a disappointment for him and our team for he's a top class gymnast, and has made so much efforts after his return to compete in Beijing," he said.

"All of us are sorry for his withdrawal but that won't affect our confidence and morale. The team are still looking for a podium finish and that goal won't change."

"We never lack the confidence," added Sun, who was born in Chinabut moved to the United States in 1986.

Hamm was replaced by Raj Bhavsar, part of the silver medal world championship teams in 2001 and 2003.

Sun also said that the decision was made by Hamm himself, feeling he is not one hundred percent fit for the competition.

"It must be a tough decision because he has done great after his comeback. It's very courageous for him to quit at this time," he said.

Hamm luckily won the most coveted men's all around title in Athens as a judge's miscalculation denied a gold medal to South Korean Yang Tae-young, who finished third after being wrongly docked points. Paul and his twin brother Morgan also lifted the Americans to a silver medal in Athens, its first at the Olympics in20 years.

Despite taking more than two years off after Athens and adjusting to the new scoring system, he proved that he was still the soul of the Americans, winning every domestic meet he entered this year.

However, he broke the fourth metacarpal in his right hand in Mayat the United States championships. He subsequently had surgery but was named in the U.S. Olympic lineup earlier this month, saying that he felt 90 percent healthy.

The U.S. team are still getting together in Chicago and will leave for Beijing on Wednesday, according to Sun, already in Beijing preparing for the team's arrival.

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