“Good workout today! Getting ready to compete.”
That was the comment left by Paul Hamm on his facebook post from yesterday, which featured a training video showing routines on floor, pommel horse, vault, and parallel bars.
Paul Hamm has managed to stay on the “down-low “since being arrested for alleged assault and refusal to pay a cab fare while intoxicated back in September 2011. The emotional responses from gymnastics fans to the former Olympic champion’s behavior – which was promptly plastered in videos all over the internet – were all over the map. Most were shocked and disappointed, many were angry and disgusted, and some felt sympathy and heartache for the greatest American male gymnast in history. Regardless of what we made of Paul Hamm’s behavior that night, the next big question on all of our minds was, “What will this do to his comeback for London?”
According to his facebook post and training video, perhaps not as much as we all initially feared.
Although Paul clearly isn’t quite Olympic ready at this point, his video appears to put him right in the Olympic mix, even if for pommel horse alone. He looks to be in excellent physical condition, is obviously in routine shape, and shows all of the qualities that has always made Paul Hamm a gymnast you simply can’t count out. And although it isn’t clear whether he’s officially on the roster for the upcoming Winter Cup to be held February 2-4, his comment regarding being ready to compete can reasonably be interpreted to suggest that he’s planning on it. Below is a summary of the skills he showed in this video:
1st pass: Back 1 ½ to front full twisting 1 ¾
2nd pass: Front full to front double full
Flair spindle sequence, going up to handstand, back down, back up to handstand, and back down
Wide arm press handstand
3rd pass: Whip to immediate layout Arabian 1 ¾
4th pass: Double layout onto soft mats
*Successful “Air Flair” into flair full spindle sequence shown separately
Scissor ¼ turn to handstand
Wu travel (720 degree Russian with 3/3 travel)
Flair full spindle sequence
Stockli to handstand with 270 degree pirouette
Roundoff half on to handspring layout front full
*Video from November 2011 showed the same vault into double full – done well
Back uprise front pike to support
Peach half (short of handstand)
Front uprise to front 1 ¼ to upper arms
Double pike dismount
*Video from November 2011 showed some excellent peach full turns
Overall, Paul looks to have surprised us once again. He never ceases to amaze me with his ability to regain his world class physical shape, full routine endurance, and top level skills after major injury. Although we’re not yet seeing him do full routines on all six events (at least on video), there’s no question we have to now throw him into the bag of legitimate Olympic contenders. He’s likely planning to add more difficulty on floor (just showed four passes here, when 5-6 is the norm nowadays) and vault (can do the half-on to front layout double twist), and has a ways to go in cleaning up his parallel bars routine, but if we consider just his pommel horse alone, he’s already going to make things very interesting. The USA used Alex Naddour, John Orozco, and Danell Leyva on pommel horse at worlds last year, and if Paul Hamm can prove himself to be our best pommel horse worker in the next several months, he just may be able to land an Olympic berth – at least as a specialist.
But if I know Paul Hamm, he’s undoubtedly planning on much more than that. “Specialist” isn’t typically in the vocabulary of this former Olympic all-around champion. He’ll need to be very smart with regards to his body, as that will likely be the determining factor in his quest for London. It will remain to be seen whether he’ll decide to put together a rings routine again given his significant past shoulder and bicep problems. These videos also didn’t feature any high bar work, although I wouldn’t suspect he’d have a problem here given what we saw him do on video last year on this event. High bar is usually one of the easier events on the body, so perhaps his skills simply aren’t ready to put in routine form right now.
I’m really looking forward to Winter Cup in just a couple of weeks, with the hope that Paul Hamm (as well as David Sender) will officially be on the roster. I’d love to see what kind of number Paul can put up on pommel horse in particular, with still several months to go before the Olympic selection process begins.
I also hope that gymnastics fans – and Paul himself – can put the unfortunate events from September completely in the past. With the upcoming Olympic season and the shape that Paul Hamm seems to be attaining, it looks like we all have a lot more exciting things to focus on.