Hamm wins Winter Cup

Paul Hamm won the Winter Cup this weekend in Las Vegas.It was hard to say how well Paul Hamm would do returning to competition. He certainly appeared to be getting better and better, based on the training videos posted on his and brother Morgan’s Making the Olympics website.

But how well would he stack up against many of the nation’s best in a real live all-around fight?

Hamm’s performance at the Winter Cup this weekend is likely to put all nay-sayers to rest. Despite falling on his Kasamatsu one and a half vault — the same vault he fell on in the Olympic all-around — Hamm was so dominant, so perfect everywhere else that in the space of 12 routines he went from being a likely contender to the likely contender not only to make the U.S. Olympic team, but to challenge his old nemesis Yang Wei for an all-around gold. Again.

AP sportswriter Eddie Pells released this glowing article about the 2004 Olympic champ Saturday:

Yes, it’s still very early, but the giddiness is palpable among the Americans, who now officially have Hamm as part of their 14-man team, which will be culled to six for the Olympics.

After watching him perform in preliminaries Thursday, 2006 national champion Sasha Artemev called Hamm the man to beat at the Olympics and said his presence pushes the U.S. team into gold-medal contention.

Granted, no gymnast ever comes to Winter Cup at the top of his game. But that includes Hamm, who is coming back after a 2 1/2-year break, and the fact that he’s this good at this point can only be viewed as a positive sign.

Raj Bhavsar at the 2004 U.S. Olympic Trials.Raj Bhavsar made a strong statement for his inclusion on the U.S. team in Beijing as well, finishing second all-around with a 178.6. Perhaps most redeeming for Bhavsar is the fact that he finished ahead of Artemev, who is as brilliant as he is inconsistent. Reigning U.S. champion David Durante was fourth, followed by Joey Hagerty and David Sender.

Inside Gymnastics Magazine reported along with its coverage of the meet that Bhavsar will join Hamm and 2007 American Cup champion Jonathan Horton as part of the U.S. contingent at the 2008 American Cup March 1 in New York City.

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