America's most successful gymnast ever retires early just months before London 2012
Saturday, 31 March 2012
March 31 – The most successful gymnast in American history, Paul Hamm (pictured), has announced his retirement from the sport just four months before the start of the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Hamm became the first American male gymnast ever to win either a World Championship or Olympic all-around title with his successes in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
He won five World Championship medals and three more from the Olympics during his glittering career which also saw him scoop the Sullivan Award in 2004 marking him as the most outstanding amateur athlete in the United States, but Hamm, who has a degree in accounting, says he is now going to focus on his studies.
Hamm also helped the US pick up its first team Olympic silver medal in 20 years at Athens 2004, and was instrumental in the team's silver at the World Championships in both 2001 and 2003.
The 29-year-old competed alongside twin brother Morgan in the successful 2003 and 2004 US teams, as well as during the Olympics in Sydney in 2000, after they burst onto the international scene together in 1999 at the US Championships, where they came 11th and 16th respectively at the age of 16.
His sister, Betsy, was also a gymnast who competed for Iowa State University, though she never reached the heights of her brothers.
Hamm cited the strain put on his body as the reason for his retirement.
"I have decided to stop training in competitive gymnastics and end my efforts as a potential member of the 2012 Olympic men's gymnastics team," he said in a statement.
"My career has far exceeded my expectations.
"I hope I am remembered for my gymnastic accomplishments, and as a kind person."
Hamm's career was not without controversy though, not least over his contentious gold medal at the Athens Olympics, when the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) said that Yang Tae-young (pictured below right) of South Korea was incorrectly docked a tenth of a point and wrongly awarded a bronze medal instead of gold as a result.
The case eventually went to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) where Hamm (pictured below centre) successfully held onto his medal, though the case cost him commercial endorsements.
Hamm was also unable to defend his medal in Beijing four years ago, again due to injury after breaking a bone in his right hand just three months before the Games.
He returned to the sport in 2010 but suffered a torn right labrum and rotator cuff last January, something he claims to still be affected by.
In 2011, he was caught up in more controversy when he was arrested for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver, losing his job as an assistant coach at Ohio State as a result.
Steve Penny, the President of USA Gymnastics, paid tribute to his impact on the sport in a statement: "Becoming the first world and Olympic all-around champion from the US is a huge statement about his talent.
"It has also made a difference in USA gymnastics emerging from a team that struggled to make the podium to a team that is consistently [there].
"Paul Hamm raised the bar in men's gymnastics in this country and worldwide, and we are continuing to benefit from the role he played."
July 2010: US gymnastics legend launches comeback for London 2012