Yang: I deserve to be champion

Updated: August 20, 2004, 9:27 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

ATHENS, Greece -- The International Gymnastics Federation met Friday to review South Korea's protest of the score for Yang Tae-young in the all-around that left him with the bronze medal and gave American Paul Hamm the gold.

No matter what the result, though, scores cannot be reversed and Hamm's medal cannot be taken away, FIG spokesman Philippe Silacci said. He said FIG officials were reviewing tapes from Wednesday's all-around to determine whether judges should be sanctioned.

Silacci said he expected a decision to be announced Saturday.

Hamm won Wednesday night's meet with a score of 57.823, 0.012 points better than South Korea's Kim Dae-eun in the closest all-around finish in Olympic history. Yang finished third with a score of 57.774.

South Korea's gymnastics federation says Yang's parallel bars routine received a start value of 10 in team preliminaries and finals, but only a 9.9 for the same set in the all-around.

Had Yang received the extra tenth of a point, he would have finished first.

"Judges can make mistakes. That's human,'' Silacci said. "But it's like football. They cannot change the score once the game is over.''

Silacci said reviews like this normally come weeks or months after the competition. But this "extraordinary meeting'' was being held quickly so that, if needed, judges could be sanctioned before Monday's parallel bars event final.

In an exclusive ABCNEWS.com interview with Yang and his coach, Lee Joo Hyung, Yang said he should have been the champion.

"What I want is justice and fairness in the judging," Yang, speaking in Korean, told ABCNEWS.com through a translator.

"His exercise was easy direct," Paul Ziert, publisher of International Gymnastics Magazine, told ABCNEWS.com. "We put it before at least 10 international judges and every single judge has come up with a 10."

Yang's coach, Lee, says that it would be fair for Yang and Hamm both to get gold medals.

"If we take a gold medal from Paul Hamm, his heart will be broken, and my heart would also be broken by that," Lee told ABCNEWS.com in Korean through a translator. "So I think there should be two gold medals."

The rules give countries the chance to make inquiries about scoring decisions, but those inquiries can only result in a changed score if they're put in before the following rotation is over.

"If you don't take advantage of that opportunity, then you lose that opportunity,'' said USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi.

Hamm fell on the vault in Wednesday's all-around and scored a 9.137 that dropped him to 12th place, seemingly out of the running. He closed with a pair of 9.837s on parallel bars and high bar, and when several other gymnasts faltered, he won the gold medal.

Afterward, Romanians Ioan Suciu said "the USA got something more than it deserved.''

When asked about the scoring the next day, Hamm said he felt everything was fair.

"I feel like I just barely edged them out,'' he said. "If you go back and look at the tapes, people can analyze it, and they'll all come to that conclusion, I think.''

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.