Hamm awaiting decision on medal

Whether he’s talking to family, friends or random people he meets out in public, Paul Hamm hears the same thing over and over: Are you going to be able to keep your Olympic gold medal?

Today, he’ll finally have an answer.

Two months after Hamm won the men’s all-around title at the Athens Olympics, the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne, Switzerland, will announce at 9 a.m. EDT today whether the gold medal stays with him or goes to a South Korean gymnast who claims it should be his.

“I’m obviously looking forward to this whole thing being done with,” Hamm told The Associated Press in a telephone interview yesterday. “I wouldn’t consider this (process) to be a pain, but it’s always something that’s being discussed, whether it’s with my family and friends or people I run into on the street. People say, ‘Whatever happened with that medal thing? People are trying to find out about it, so it’s constantly on my mind.”

Hamm won the gold Aug. 18 with one of the most spectacular comebacks in the sport’s history, rallying after being in 12th place with only two events left. But two days later, gymnastics officials discovered that Yang Tae-Young of South Korea had been wrongly docked a tenth of a point on his second-to-last routine, the parallel bars.

Yang ended up with the bronze, 0.049 points behind Hamm. Add that extra 0.100, though, and Yang would have finished 0.051 points ahead of the American.

That, however, assumes everything in the final rotation played out the same way — a big if.

The International Gymnastics Federation acknowledged the error and suspended three judges. But it said repeatedly it would not change the results because the South Koreans didn’t protest until after the meet.

That didn’t stop the South Koreans from pressing their case, though. They appealed to the U.S. Olympic Committee and the International Olympic Committee, but IOC president Jacques Rogge flatly refused to even consider the idea of giving Yang a gold medal.

Then FIG president Bruno Grandi confused the issue, writing a letter to Hamm and asking him to surrender the gold medal voluntarily. In the letter, Grandi wrote, “The true winner of the all-around competition is Yang Tae-young.”

Buoyed by that statement, Yang filed an appeal on the final day of the games with CAS — the sports world’s highest court.

“There are a lot of great memories for me of Athens and I’ll never forget them,” Hamm said. “There are also times in Athens that I just wished I was home.”

On Sept. 27, six weeks after the men’s all-around, a three-judge panel heard Yang’s appeal at CAS’s headquarters. During the hearing, USOC attorney Jeff Benz argued there was no guarantee Yang would have won the gold if not for the scoring error. There was still one event left, and there’s no way to guarantee everything would have turned out the same.