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Spring tries to get back in mix

Feeling forgotten, the gymnast ignores injuries and impresses during a five-event performance at the men's trials.

June 20, 2008|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA -- He has a sore knee, sore ankle and sore back. "The trifecta," Justin Spring said.

Spring, 24, of Burke, Va., energized the crowd at the Wachovia Center in spite of the pain and brought tears to the eyes of his coach Thursday night with a gritty performance in the first round of the U.S. men's gymnastics Olympic trials.

Spring made a last-minute decision to compete on floor exercise as well as doing planned routines on high bar, still rings, vault and parallel bars. It was a wise choice. After those five events, Spring was the overall leader and his score on floor of 15.200 was the second-highest of the night.

Among the gymnasts who competed on all six events, Alexander Artemev was first with 90.650 and Jonathan Horton was second with 90.550. Spring's score of 15.400 on high bar was second-best on the night and his 15.700 on parallel bars was No. 1.

"I had been hearing the talk," Spring said afterward. "The talk after nationals was that I wasn't in the mix for the Olympic team."

Artemev was also looking for redemption. He had fallen off his signature event, pommel horse, twice at the national championships last month in Houston and finished an undistinguished sixth overall.

The men's Olympic team selection committee is using a formula that counts the national results as 40% and trials results as 60% of a weighted points system that will measure what the best combination of six gymnasts would be for the Olympic team.

Also ignoring some pain was 2004 team member Morgan Hamm. On floor exercise, where Hamm had won the gold medal at nationals, he tweaked his ankle and limped off the mat.

"I'm on the bubble," Hamm said. "So I had to finish strong." He did, posting the second-highest score of the night on pommel horse and third-highest on vault and high bar.

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diane.pucin@latimes.com

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