NASHVILLE – Reigning World Champion and two-time U.S Champion Paul Hamm (Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron – Ohio State) leads the 2004 Visa U.S. Gymnastics Championships after the first round of competition at the Gaylord Entertainment Center in Nashville, Tenn.


Hamm is followed closely by Brett McClure (Mill Creek, Wash./Team Chevron – USOTC) and twin brother Morgan Hamm (Waukesha, Wis./Team Chevron – Ohio State). Raj Bhavsar (Houston, Texas/Team Chevron – Ohio State) is currently in fourth.

"I felt confident on all the events tonight," Hamm said. "I am going to clean it up a little bit more before Friday. It’s been great to train with Raj and Blaine and other gymnasts who are at the same level. It’s really helping step up my gymnastics."

Hamm’s total of 57.700 included only one break, on vault, where he sat down a Yurchenko 2 1/2. Despite the error, he still managed to maintain first place over McClure by nearly a full point. Hamm’s highest score, 9.800, came on floor, where he is the current World Champion, and high bar, where he connected layout, straddle, and piked Tkatchevs, and dismounted with a double twisting double layout. On floor, he finished his routine with a high, stuck, double layout dismount.

McClure finished second with a 56.825, thanks to a 9.750 on pommel horse in the first rotation, good for second place. A 9.500 start value on floor held his score to just 9.050, but he countered with a 9.625 on high bar (peach-1/2, peach-1/2, peach, tucked Belle sequence) and a 9.650 on high bar.

Morgan Hamm jumped from 19th after the first rotation to third due to a second place 9.675 on high bar. Hamm swung through an invert sequence and a layout Tkatchev, finishing with a stuck double twisting double layout to be bested only by his brother. Consistent scores on floor, pommel horse, and vault helped to a 56.325 prelim total.

Bhavsar, whose goal was to be in the top three at the halfway point of the competition, led the field at the halfway point. His leading 9.800 routine on parallel bars included an opening sequence of peach-half, peach, piked double back and ended with a strong double pike dismount. He also won rings with a 9.700, with an impressive strength sequence and a layout double-double dismount.

The top 30 all-around Jr. and Sr. athletes, in addition to qualified event specialists from the senior and junior divisions combined qualify to the all-around final on Friday, June 4.

Competition continues Thursday with Junior Women’s All-Around Prelims and Event Finals at 1 p.m. followed by Senior Women’s All-Around Prelims and Event Finals at 7 p.m.

Additional Quotes

Morgan Hamm

"I try to rely on my trainer and not put too much pressure on myself. As a group, (Ohio State) we’re a great group. We talk to each other and I love competing with those guys."

Raj Bhavasar

"The plan was to be leading after three events. I’ve got something to work toward on Friday. This is a four-day trial process, I made one mistake on the horse and will try not to do it again."

Paul Hamm

"All the events I felt confident on. I am going to clean it up a little bit more."

"My brother and I have a good relationship on the floor. There is no rivalry. Obviously we have trained together since we were little and I do not want my brother to have a bad competition."

"It’s been great to train with Raj and Blaine and other gymnasts who are at the same level."

Brett McClure

"I am happy there is room for improvement, this is only twenty percent- a fraction of everything."

"Before the competition I try to stay positive. I have done everything I can do to get ready. You have to go in with no regrets and whatever happens, happens."

Stephen McCain

"You can’t get overwhelmed by people that have a great routine, someone is going to nail a routine every time. If I can’t enjoy it by now that would be a shame, I feel humbled to be standing out there with these guys."

Sean Townsend

"It’s going to be tough to make this team. I just focus on this year, it’s that extra little confidence that you need for the competition."