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U.S. Men Make Final

Wilson hits his head in a fall after changing his routine because of a late scoring decision, but Paul Hamm leads team to second-highest score.

August 15, 2004|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

ATHENS — There was controversy and there was confusion. Blaine Wilson used the word "cheat" in describing the Olympic men's gymnastics high-bar judging panel. Saturday was not a routine opening day at Olympic Hall.

Still, the U.S. qualified for Monday's team finals with the second-best score and Paul Hamm, defending world champion, had stamped himself as the man to beat by qualifying with the highest total for the all-around finals.

Japan finished first with 232.134 points. The U.S. had 230.419 and Romania qualified third with 230.019. Defending Olympic and world champion China qualified fourth with 229.507. Also moving into the eight-team finals were Ukraine, Russia, Korea and Germany. Qualifying scores do not carry over to the finals.

On the high bar, the second set of routines for the U.S., Wilson suddenly found himself flat on his back, staring at the ceiling. His ears were ringing and the sound of his back hitting the mat reverberated.

Wilson had botched a release move inserted only 48 hours before. According to U.S. team officials, during last Wednesday's podium training, Sawao Kato of Japan, chairman of the high-bar scoring panel for FIG, the international gymnastics federation, said that a release move called a stalder hop full used by Wilson, Jason Gatson and Brett McClure had been incorrectly scored for two years.

The start values of the routines were reduced to 9.8, from 10. The start value is the score a routine perfectly performed would receive.

As late as Saturday morning, five hours before the competition, USA Gymnastics President Bob Colarossi and Ron Galimore, men's senior director, were listening to Adrian Stoica of Romania, head of the FIG technical committee, explain the discrepancy.

"What was scored from a 10 for two world championships in a row, all of a sudden, it was different," Galimore said.

"Something is out of the ordinary and we need to address it. It's frustrating. We were told by Stoica that he was very sorry and that it was embarrassing but the decision was final. When we saw Kato, he put his head down and didn't look at us."

After the fall, feeling woozy and nauseated, and with a major headache, Wilson, a three-time Olympian, competed in the floor exercise, scoring a solid 9.700. But when the team was ready to move to its fourth rotation on the pommel horse, Wilson told coach Kevin Mazeika he wanted to sit out.

"When you want to puke, it's not good," Wilson said. "I still have a giant headache right now, but I'm fine."

After skipping the horse, Wilson managed to finish out on the still rings and vault.

Guard Young, the last man to make the team, had been scheduled to skip the pommel horse but took Wilson's spot.

The U.S. needed Young's score of 9.212 because McClure, who had hoped to win a medal on the horse, fell off and posted a 9.000.

Colarossi said there was no further appeal that could have been made about the start value mix-up. Kato and Stoica refused to comment.

"Mr. Stoica went through the rules clearly and said he was sorry for the confusion and said he was very disappointed it happened," Colarossi said. Galimore, though, said FIG officials had "ample time to communicate this difference before podium training at the Olympics."

The favored Chinese seemed to save themselves for Monday's team finals. Their gymnasts did watered-down floor exercise routines and scratched their last performer on the still rings, even though it meant counting a score of 8.925.

During qualifying, five members of each six-man team competed, with the top four scores counting.

Monday three gymnasts per team will compete on each apparatus and all three scores will count.

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