Penn State assistant coach selected for men's squad

Posted: June 23, 2008

The men's gymnastics selection committee, after deliberating 11 hours over two days in the heat of a Philadelphia summer, named a U.S. Olympic team yesterday, one it hopes will form a more perfect union than the 40-plus other permutations it considered.

The American team, winners of the silver medal in 2004 and not favorites to win the gold medal this summer in Beijing, consists of returnees Paul and Morgan Hamm, as well as first-timers Joe Hagerty, Jonathan Horton, Justin Spring, and Penn State assistant gymnastics coach Kevin Tan.

"It was kind of an out-of-body experience hearing my name called," said Tan.

The three alternates are Raj Bhavsar - who missed automatically qualifying on Saturday by 0.09 of a point - Alexander Artemev, and New Jersey's David Durante.

Sean Golden, the Camden resident who competed in only three events but totaled the highest scores in two of them Saturday, missed out.

"I was disappointed, but it was what it was," Golden said. "In a way, [performing so well on Saturday] made it easier because I knew I competed as hard as I could. I have full confidence that the selection committee picked the best team they possibly could."

Ron Brant, one of the five-man selection panel, called the process "extremely difficult."

"I think 99.5 percent was based on scores, final results, and comparing the best [possible] teams against each other," Brant said.

Even now, however, at least one major question remains: Will Paul Hamm's broken hand be healthy enough by July 22, when he must prove to the selection committee he can compete in Beijing on Aug. 9?

"Paul's hand is still up in the air," said Bhavsar, who also was an alternate in 2004 and who likely would replace Hamm should America's top male gymnast be unable to go. "My job is to stay ready."

Perhaps the most surprising choice was Morgan Hamm. Since tearing a pectoral muscle several months ago, he hasn't fully regained his form. On Saturday, he was subpar in everything but the high bar.

What saved Morgan Hamm, officials hinted, was his skill on the pommel horse, the Americans' weakest event.

"I'll probably be spending twice as much time on that now," Morgan Hamm said.


Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick

at 215-854-5068 or ffitzpatrick@phillynews.com.

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