A look back at Paul Hamm’s superhuman 2008 comeback…

Paul Hamm 2008 Winter Cup

1st place all-around

AA Scores: 92.8 and 93.05

Paul Hamm 2008 American Cup

1st place all-around

AA Score: 94.4

Paul Hamm 2008 Pacific Rim Championships

1st place all-around

AA Score: 94.45

Paul Hamm 2008 Visa Championships

1st place all-around (Day 1)

AA Score: 93.45

I agreed with Tim Daggett that the first day of the 2008 Visa Championships was the best Paul had ever looked.  His gymnastics appeared to be approaching that ultimate peak form that only world and Olympic champions seem to attain, taking on that smooth, clean, and effortless look in which all six events seem to somehow blend together into one beautiful and masterful all-around creation.  He seemed destined to challenge for gold in Beijing, until that one ill-timed moment in which the energy and momentum he had been generating with each stunning performance seemed to suddenly turn on him.  Despite how fluid and aesthetic that parallel bar routine was, in his excitement and growing confidence he appeared slightly rushed, and it threw off the rhythm of the routine just enough that it caught up to him in one of his final skills.  It’s crazy to think that had that one pirouette not been slightly past the handstand prior to the Stutz to one bar, the story of the 2008 Olympic Games would be told in a dramatically different way today.

In 2000 he was a young teenager who snuck onto the U.S. Olympic team but wasn’t ready to win medals.  In 2004 he became the Olympic champion whose gold medal was tainted by a dramatic scoring controversy.  In 2008 he launched one of the greatest comebacks in sports history, only to have his ultimate chance for redemption stolen by a fluke injury.  Will London 2012 finally be the story Paul Hamm wants to be told to generations to come?