COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (AP) Paul Hamm could leave next week's Olympic trials with a spot on the Beijing squad, even with a broken hand.
The reigning Olympic champion is unable to compete at the gymnastics trials because of a broken bone in his right hand. He has petitioned to be put straight on the team, and national team coordinator Ron Brant said Thursday that could "easily" happen.
"Everything so far has been very good," Brant said of Hamm's recovery. "His petition will be reviewed at trials. If the committee determines he is far enough along ... he could easily be put on the team immediately, and then come to the camp and show he's ready to go."
The Olympic trials begin next Thursday in Philadelphia, and at least two members of the Beijing team will be named when they end June 21. The rest of the team and/or a training squad will be announced within 24 hours, and the full team and up to three alternates has to be named by July 1.
All of the athletes will have to prove they're physically ready to compete at a July 13-22 camp at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo.
"The big thing is (to show) he can compete his routines and his injury is not holding him back," Brant said. "Knowing the type of person and the athlete that Paul is, he's not interested in going and getting a warm-up jacket. He would probably remove himself if he's not ready."
Putting Hamm on the team is a no-brainer, provided his recovery is progressing well. He is the only American man to win the Olympic and world (2003) all-around titles and, despite a 2 1/2-year layoff after Athens, had firmly established himself as a favorite to defend his title in Beijing.
He won every meet he entered this year, and was leading the national championships by nearly four points before breaking the fourth metacarpal in his right hand in the closing seconds of his parallel bars routine, his last of the night.
Hamm, who had a plate and nine small screws inserted in his hand May 27, is expected to get clearance June 24 to resume gymnastics activity. That would give him three weeks of doing routines before the training camp begins, and Hamm said last week he is optimistic he'll be healthy in time for Beijing.