Athens champion Hamm retires

Updated: Mar 28, 2012, 10:06 AM IST

London: Paul Hamm, the only American man to win the Olympic all-round gold medal, announced his retirement from gymnastics on Tuesday.

Plagued by injuries for the past few years, the 29-year-old, whose victory at the 2004 Athens Olympics was shrouded in controversy, said he decided to quit even though the London Olympics are just four months away.

"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," Hamm 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."

Steve Penny, the president of USA Gymnastics, paid a rich tribute to Hamm, who also won the all-round world championship in 2003.

"Becoming the World and Olympic all-around champion was an unprecedented accomplishment for our country," said Penny.

"Not only did he enjoy individual success, but he also was a force in our team`s success and raised the bar for men`s gymnastics in the United States."

Hamm made his Olympic debut in Sydney in 2000 and won the world title in California three years later but it was his victory at the 2004 Olympics that made him a household name.

After becoming the first American man to win the all-round title he had to battle all the way to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) to keep his medal after the governing body in gymnastics (FIG) announced he had been handed the gold in error.

The FIG admitted bronze medallist Yang Tae-young should have been awarded the gold as he had been incorrectly docked a 10th of a point from his parallel bars routine but the governing body refused to redistribute the medals.

The FIG`s stand forced the South Koreans to appeal against the decision but CAS eventually ruled in favour of Hamm.

After taking a 2-1/2 year break, Hamm returned to competitive action in 2007 and qualified for the 2008 Beijing Olympics only to pull out because of injury.

He made another comeback in 2010 but was never able to regain full fitness as injuries caught up with him.

"Gymnastics has given me so much and now it is my turn to give back," Hamm said.

"I will always have gymnastics in my heart, and I will continue to stay involved with the governing body and all aspects of the sport."

Bureau Report