Reflection: US Men’s Olympic Gymnastics in Beijing 2008

For anyone that remembers what happened back in 2008… after the U.S. Olympics Trials the following Men’s Olympic Team was announced for the Beijing Olympics that year:
– Paul Hamm
– Morgan Hamm
– Joe Hagerty
– Jonathan Horton
– Justin Spring
– Kai Wen Tan

Though Paul did not compete, he did however did enough to earn a spot on the Olympic team. Eventually though Paul had to drop out of the games due to his injuries unable to heal enough in time for the games and the first alternate was called up to the plate: Raj Bhavsar. Just to give a quick recap: Raj was an alternate on the 2004 U.S. Mens Gymnastics Olympics Team and was originally once again the alternate in 2008, but due to Paul’s withdrawal he was called up to fill the spot. He grew between the two Olympics, not only as a gymnast but also as a person, taking that “devastation” of being an alternate in 2004 and learning how to come to terms with it in 2008.

Originally with the Hamm brothers, the United States Gymnastics Team was expected to contend for the gold medal, and though with Raj the gold was a possibility it wasn’t nearly as strong as it were with Paul Hamm. They, after all still had the other Hamm brother: Morgan, who heard questions only about his brother who was considering a trip to Beijing.

Then the unthinkable happened: Morgan Hamm had to withdraw having injured during training at Beijing. Suddenly the idea of the United States Mens Gymnastics Team capturing a medal at Beijing seemed more like a pipe dream… still the United States moved forward, trying to decide whom to bring up to the plate David Durante or Alexander Artemev. Knowing that they needed help on pommel horse they went to the one guy who had the talent and skill set to fill that void: Alexander Artemev.

Now back during the United States Olympic Trials, Alexander placed fifth in the all-around and was passed over for the Olympic Team due to consistency issues, even though he is largely known to have the most pure talent of any of the Olympians. However, what he is capable to bring onto to the table didn’t just give him the chance to put his magic on his apparatus of choice: the pommel horse, he is expected to put his talented magic to good use on all six apparatus giving him the chance to qualify for the individual all-around. Who knew?

The United States Men drew an early subdivision, widely known to come out with lower scores. It was going to be a long day of waiting before the United States Men would know how they fared against everyone else… but what else could they do, despite scoring high.

As it would turn out, the United States Men qualified to the team final, but not only that… they managed to place sixth overall. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief, if only for a day… this United States Mens Olympic Gymnastics Team who most everyone had written off once the Hamm brothers had both dropped out, were now considered underdogs in the medal hunt. This young team were flying high because most of the people that wrote them off were now cautiously praising them for their strong qualifying round… but the work isn’t done yet. After all, with the gold and silver pretty much figured out the battle that everyone was looking at was for bronze with four countries vying for the precious medal: Russia, Germany, Korea and the United States… guess who ended up on the podium?

The United States, but who knew it would have happened when it all hinged on the hopes of one Alexander Artemev on the last apparatus of the competition who did not compete on any other apparatus until the pommel horse.

Now I could go into all the details but I think all the articles included in this post will do a fairly good job of recounting all the bits and pieces. For me on the other hand… I hope that the London Olympic Games won’t be anywhere nearly as dramatic as the last Olympics, but then again… what else would keep people tied to their seats?