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South Korean would have beaten Hamm

8/23/2004

ATHENS, Greece -- Paul Hamm thought his fantastic finish was
too good to be true. Maybe he was right.


The International Gymnastics Federation ruled Saturday that Yang Tae Young was unfairly docked a tenth of a point in the all-around
final, costing him the gold medal that ended up going to Hamm. The
South Korean got the bronze instead.

The federation suspended three judges, but it said the results
will not be changed in a case that brought back memories of the
figure skating scandal at the Salt Lake City Games in 2002.

Although there are no signs of impropriety by the gymnastics
judges, the South Koreans will now ask the Court of Arbitration for
Sports to determine whether Yang deserves a gold medal.

"We want obvious mistakes to be corrected," said Jae Soon-yoo,
an official with the South Korean delegation.

Hamm came all the way back from 12th place with two routines
left Wednesday night to become the first American man to win the
Olympic all-around.

He won the meet over South Korea's Kim Dae-eun by 0.012, the
event's closest margin ever. Yang was 0.049 behind Hamm.

The 0.100 points deducted from Yang's start value in
parallel bars -- the difficulty of the routine -- was the difference
between third and first. Without the mistake, Yang would have won
gold, Hamm silver and Kim bronze.

Teams can make an "inquiry" about a start value, but it must
be done no later than one event after the routine in question,
according to gymnastics rules.

South Korea failed to lodge a protest in time, so the scoring
could not be changed, said Philippe Silacci, spokesman for the
federation, known as FIG. But Jae said the South Koreans did
question the scoring as soon as the routine was over and were told
by the judges to file a protest letter after the meet.

"They said that was the best they could do right there on the
spot," she said. "It was a real basic injustice in judging
practices."

At the Sydney Olympics, American Blaine Wilson was awarded an
extra tenth of a point on pommel horse after his coach filed a
protest, claiming his starting value was too low. The change didn't
affect the medals; Wilson finished sixth in the all-around.

USA Gymnastics president Bob Colarossi compared Wednesday's
mistake to a bad call in football that wasn't discovered until
after the game. He insisted FIG's decision should not put an
asterisk on Hamm's gold medal.

"Paul Hamm's performance the other night was absolutely
incredible," Colarossi said. "It's unfortunate the judges didn't
have the right start value."

Yang received a start value of 9.9 on parallel bars. But after
reviewing a tape of the all-around, FIG officials ruled he should
have gotten a 10, the start value he received for the same routine
in team qualifying and finals.

With the extra 0.10, he would have finished with 57.874 points
and defeated Hamm by 0.051.

Matthieu Reeb, general secretary of CAS, talked to the South
Korean team about an appeal, which was expected to be filed by
Sunday. Still, he said it was unclear whether the court would hear
the case.

"Our regular practice is that field-of-play decisions cannot be
reviewed by CAS," Reeb said. "We'll see if the Korean delegation
has other legal arguments to submit to the court. We haven't had a
similar case involving a problem of judging or scoring."

Hamm, practicing Saturday for event finals, was not available
for comment. He was asked Thursday about the judging and his close
victory.

"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."

Gilbert Felli, the IOC's executive director for the Olympics,
said the IOC had not been approached by the South Koreans or
gymnastics officials. Both he and IOC president Jacques Rogge said
the figure skating case bore little resemblance to this one.

"The IOC never intervenes on a ranking issue," Rogge told The
Associated Press. "The only time is in a case like that in Salt
Lake City, which involved manipulation. That is not the case
here."

At the 2002 Games, a French judge said she was pressured by her
federation's chief to favor the Russians in pairs over the
Canadians. Jamie Sale and David Pelletier of Canada were ultimately
awarded duplicate golds.

In Athens, however, there were no signs of intentional
wrongdoing. The scoring error was made with one event left, and
there was no way the judges could have known that reducing Yang's
start value would cost him the gold.

In another case at the 2002 Games, South Koreans fumed when
short track speed skater Kim Dong-sung was disqualified in the
1,500-meter race, allowing American Apolo Anton Ohno to win the
gold.

FIG said the suspension of the judges was necessary to protect
the integrity of the organization and "maintain and ensure the
highest possible judging standard at the Olympic Games."

Technical judges Benjamin Bango of Spain and Oscar Buitrago
Reyes of Colombia were suspended, along with George Beckstead of
the United States.

Beckstead was the panel chairman, and therefore had ultimate
responsibility for all the judges. But because the other judges
agreed on the 9.9 start value, Beckstead had no cause to step in.