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Shawn Johnson will most likely be making her official return to competitive gymnastics this summer, and there’s at least a chance that Paul Hamm will do the same.  We’ve seen glimpses of Shawn in training over the last year – most recently about three months ago – and although her torn ACL and more mature body have obviously posed significant challenges in her quest to return to her Olympic form, her commitment and progress have both been evident.  We’ve seen footage of high level skills and, most importantly, a marked improvement in her overall physique.  All signs have suggested that this comeback is for real, and her return to the competiion floor will likely be the most exciting aspect of this summer’s Visa Championships.

Paul Hamm’s progress has been much more of a mystery.  His initial plans to return to competition at this year’s Winter Cup were thwarted by a torn labrum in his shoulder, and his subsequent surgery revealed more extensive damage to the surrounding muscles than originally anticipated.  When we didn’t hear much at all from the 2004 Olympic All-Around Champion for several months, many fans began to wonder whether the 28-year-old’s second planned major comeback of his career would once again be squelched by injury as it was in 2008.  But great news for American gymnastics fans – Hamm recently stated in an interview that he was still training and would at least consider competing a couple of events at this summer’s Visa Championships if he feels ready.

This whole “comeback” concept is nothing new in American gymnastics.  Below is a list of 19 American gymnasts (male and female) who have at least attempted comebacks over the past twenty years.  Note that only gymnasts who actually retired from the sport for a period and then came back are listed.  If we count Cuban-born Annia Hatch, who gained American citizenship during her comeback between 2002-2004, only FOUR of these 19 gymnasts actually made an American Olympic team during their comebacks to the sport (Alicia Sacramone’s fate is still pending).  These gymnasts are Amy Chow, Dominique Dawes, Mohini Bhardwaj, and Annia Hatch.

Will Shawn Johnson and Paul Hamm defy these statistics and end up on the competition floor in London?

Females

Brandy Johnson – 1992

Kim Zmeskal – 1994 and 1998


Wendy Bruce – 1994

Amy Chow – 1999

Kristie Phillips – 1999

Dominique Dawes – 2000

Shannon Miller – 2000

Jaycie Phelps – 2000

Dominique Moceanu – 2000

Annia Hatch – 2002

Chari Knight-Hunter – 2002

Mohini Bhardwaj – 2004

Alicia Sacramone – 2010

Males

Kurt Thomas – 1991

Trent Dimas – 1996

Chainey Umphrey – 2000

Paul Hamm – 2007

Morgan Hamm – 2007

Blaine Wilson 2008