NEW YORK (Reuters) – Olympic all-around champion Paul Hamm has withdrawn from the Beijing Games due to injury, USA Gymnastics said on Monday.
“I have put my heart and soul into my comeback and done everything I could to get ready in time to compete in Beijing,” said Hamm, who won the all-around title at the 2004 Olympic Games and is recovering from a broken hand, in a statement.
“After returning home from the preparation camp, I had a few physical setbacks, and it became clear to me that my physical preparations would not be sufficient to properly represent the United States and contribute to the team’s efforts to win a medal,” Hamm added.
Hamm also said he had recently strained his rotator cuff and had been unable to perform all of his skills.
“At this point in time, the success of the team and fairness to the team, and the alternates, is most important,” Hamm said. “While I am very disappointed, I feel I can wait no longer to make this decision.”
Both the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and USA Gymnastics praised Hamm.
“His inspiring comeback to win the Olympic gold medal in 2004 was one of the signature moments of the Athens Olympic Games,” USOC chief executive Jim Scherr said in a statement.
“Equally inspiring is the manner by which Paul worked to try to regain his full competitive form for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games.”
“Through his determination, perseverance and courage, Paul has set an example that will lift his teammates in Beijing,” Scherr added.
USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny said he admired Hamm for his comeback attempt.
“Paul’s comeback this year has been phenomenal, made even more impressive following the injury to his hand,” Penny said. We respect his decision at this time, which is being made to serve the best interests of all of the athletes involved.”