Gold still the goal for U.S. gymnast Hamm as he recovers from injured hand

A week after Paul Hamm was cleared to do gymnastics again, the Olympic gold medalist's coach is "tremendously encouraged" by his progress from a broken hand.

Hamm is training five of his six events, including doing a full routine on pommel horse, coach Miles Avery said Friday. Hamm isn't vaulting yet as a precautionary measure, but likely will start next week &

just in time for the July 19 training camp where he must show he is physically able to compete at the Beijing Olympics.

"It's a lot of fun," Avery said. "Obviously, it relieves some of that stress of, 'Are we going to get this done?' ... He does have a little pain in it, but he continues icing and doing the things you need to do to keep it under control.

"So far, so good."

Hamm broke the fourth metacarpal in his right hand May 22 in the final seconds of his parallel bars routine at the national championships. Five days later, hand specialist Dr. Lawrence Lubbers repaired the break with a titanium plate and nine small screws.

The men's competition in Beijing begins Aug. 9, giving Hamm a very tight timetable for his recovery. He was off gymnastics equipment for six weeks, though he spent three hours each day doing strength and conditioning exercises to maintain his fitness level.

On July 3, Lubbers cleared Hamm to resume full training after X-rays showed the break had healed enough to withstand the force of gymnastics.

"I thought, 'Wow, we're getting awfully close,'" Avery said. "Once he was released to do gymnastics and he himself found out 'I can really do stuff,' &

the first day we did a little horse, did some parallel bars &

it was certainly a big relief.

"Before that? Yeah, I was a little concerned."

Hamm was tentative at first on some skills &

in a video on his Web site, he appears to favor his hand the first time he does floor exercise &

but Avery said he's gaining confidence every day. It helps that Lubbers stops in the gym frequently to check the gymnast's progress.

"He said, 'I did a great job, it's not going to break. Have at it,'" Avery said. "It does help with that confidence."

Hamm isn't doing his release moves on high bar yet or some of the twisting skills on parallel bars that would put excessive force on the hand. Lubbers also has Hamm doing drills instead of full vaults because he wanted to give the hand more time to heal before Hamm starts slamming it on the vaulting table.

But when the men's team has its intrasquad competition July 19 in Colorado Springs, Colo., Avery said Hamm will be ready.

"Look where he is already after one week of doing gymnastics," Avery said. "He is amazing. He is absolutely amazing. He has to get a lot of the credit because he had to do all of the conditioning. He kept his body in such great shape that he'll be able to get back to gymnastics a lot faster than anyone else."

After the training camp, Hamm will have another three weeks to perfect his routines. That's the same timeframe he had before nationals, when he was practically perfect through the first five events.

Even with the injury, Hamm finished that competition nearly four points ahead.

"We used about three weeks to get in tip-top form for Houston," Avery said. "We'll get in shape for this camp, and then we will spend three weeks doing a lot of routines and getting everything perfected."

Despite a 21/2-year layoff after Athens, Hamm had firmly established himself as a contender for another gold in Beijing before the injury. That goal hasn't changed, Avery said.

"Paul Hamm is going to be ready to challenge for the all-around," Avery said.

Share This Story