Host City: Athina, Greece
Venue(s): Olympic Indoor Hall, Athens Olympic Sports Complex Spiros Loues, Maroussi
Date Started: August 14, 2004
Date Finished: August 18, 2004
The format was different in 2004, with only 24 men advancing to the final round from the team qualifying, with no more than two allowed from any nations. Qualifying scores did not carry over to the final round. Previously, there were 36 finalists, with three allowed from each nation. This format had been used at the 2003 World Championships, although it had actually been used at the 1993 Worlds as well, but the format reverted to the 36/3 rule from 1995-2001. American Paul Hamm had won the all-around at the 2003 Worlds and came to Athinai as the favorite. He would eventually win the gold medal but in the most controversial men’s gymnastic event ever.
Hamm led the qualifying round, and he took an early lead in the final round. On his fourth rotation, however, the vault, Hamm missed his landing, scoring only 9.137 points and dropping to 12th place. He and his coach conferred and decided if he could score 9.8s on the final two rotations, he might be able to salvage a bronze medal. He then performed one of his best parallel bars routines ever, scoring 9.837 to move back into fourth place. The leaders after five rotations were the two Koreans, Kim Dae-Eun and Yang Tae-Yeong. Yang’s fifth rotation had been on parallel bars, on which he scored 9.712, but this would ignite the controversy.
Kim opened the final rotation on the floor exercise and scored 9.650 to remain in the lead, especially when Yang missed a grip on a pirouette on the high bar and scored only 9.475. Hamm then followed Yang on the high bar and nailed the routine, thinking he had secured the bronze medal, but when his score of 9.837 was posted, he had won the gold. At least it seemed he had.
Then the arguments began. The Koreans protested that on the parallel bars, Yang’s start value had been re-assigned as 9.9 instead of the 10.0 they felt it deserved. They approached the head judge, George Beckford, of the United States, who waved them off and discounted the complaint, stating that the start value was correct. The Korean officials then appealed to the A-panel judges, Bultrago Reyes of Colombia and Benjamin Bango of Spain. They reviewed the notes and spotted an error. Yang’s listed elements had included a Morisue (double back to upper arms) while it was actually a Belle (giant to double back to upper arms), and the difference would have increased his start value by 0.10 points, or up to the 10.0 the Koreans were claiming.
The Koreans claimed that Yang should be given the gold medal but the Americans also noted that Yang had made a mistake on his parallel bars routine, performing 4 hangs, although only 3 were allowed, and he had not been penalized for this. Had this error been noted, he would have had a 0.2 penalty and would have had a lower total score, even if the start value were corrected.
The Korean Olympic Committee disregarded this argument, stating that other gymnasts were not penalized for this, and then protested to the Fédération Internationale de Gymnastique (FIG), which refused to hear it, stating that it was after the competition, and noting that their rules required all protests to be filed during the competition. Two days later the FIG Executive Committee reviewed the case and released a statement noting that Yang’s start value should have been 10.0, but did not change the results, although they suspended the three judges responsible.
Bruno Grandi, FIG President, then wrote a letter to Paul Hamm, sending it via the US Olympic Committee, in which Grandi urged Hamm to return the gold medal and give it to Yang. Grandi wrote, “I wish to remind you that the FIG Executive Committee has admitted the error of judgement made on the Parallel Bars and suspended the three responsible judges, two from the A panel and the FIG Technical Committee member. Indeed, the start value of the Korean gymnast Yang Tae Young was given as 9.9 instead of 10. As a result, the true winner of the All-Around competition is Yang Tae Young. If, (according to your declarations to the press), you would return your medal to the Korean if the FIG requested it, then such an action would be recognised as the ultimate demonstration of Fairplay by the whole world. The FIG and the IOC would highly appreciate the magnitude of this gesture. At this moment in time, you are the only one who can make this decision.”
The US Olympic Committee was not pleased with this letter from Grandi and refused to forward it to Hamm. Their response to Grandi included the following, “Your letter states ‘the IOC would highly appreciate the magnitude of this gesture.’ You should know that upon receipt of your letter, we immediately contacted the International Olympic Committee and its President, Dr. Jacques Rogge, which expressed its displeasure over the fact the FIG would even consider placing an athlete in such an untenable position and strongly stated they do not support the letter or its contents. Mr. Grandi, it is important to remind you that your own Federation rules, and your own public statements, clearly indicate that Mr. Hamm is the Olympic gold medalist in the 2004 Individual Men's All-Around. We share and support that viewpoint. The statement in your letter that ‘the true winner of the All-Around competition is Yang Tae Young’ is not only inconsistent with your rules and public statements, it is incorrect and undermines the very spirit of the Olympic Games. As stewards of the Olympic movement, we all share a responsibility to protect, and not sacrifice, the interests of athletes. We encourage you and other individuals within FIG, who saw this as an appropriate remedy, to begin taking that responsibility more seriously. Once again, we urge you to immediately retract this unacceptable request.”
The Korean officials and Yang were not yet done. They then appealed the decision to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS). A hearing was held in Lausanne, Switzerland on 27 September 2004 at which Hamm and the US Olympic Committee appeared. On 21 October the CAS announced their decision which supported Hamm, allowing him to keep the gold medal. The ruling noted, “An error identified with the benefit of hindsight, whether admitted or not, cannot be a ground for reversing a result of a competition.... However, quite apart from the consideration that no one can be certain how the competition in question would have turned out had the official's decision been different, for a Court to change the result would on this basis still involve interfering with a field of play decision. Each sport may have within it a mechanism for utilizing modern technology to ensure a correct decision is made in the first place (e.g. cricket with run-outs) or for immediately subjecting a controversial decision to a process of review (e.g. gymnastics) but the solution for error, either way, lies within the framework of the sport's own rules.” They also noted that the Korean protest was not made before the end of the competition, as required by FIG rules.
So the final result was 1) Paul Hamm (USA); 2) Kim Dae-Eun (KOR); 3) Yang Tae-Young (KOR). Pretty simple, eh?
|1||Paul Hamm||21||United States||USA||Gold||57.823|
|2||Kim Dae-Eun||19||South Korea||KOR||Silver||57.811|
|3||Yang Tae-Yeong||24||South Korea||KOR||Bronze||57.774|
|9||Brett McClure||23||United States||USA||57.248|
|15||Luis Vargas||21||Puerto Rico||PUR||56.135|
|32||Jorge Hugo Giraldo||24||Colombia||COL||54.997|
|38||Ng Shu Wai||19||Malaysia||MAS||54.649|
|50||Guard Young||27||United States||USA||47.611|
|53||Blaine Wilson||30||United States||USA||47.386|
|59||Kim Seung-Il||19||South Korea||KOR||46.324|
|67||Morgan Hamm||21||United States||USA||38.662|
|70||Kim Dong-Hwa||28||South Korea||KOR||38.012|
|71||Lee Seon-Seong||23||South Korea||KOR||37.899|
|73||Jason Gatson||24||United States||USA||37.799|
|76||Jo Seong-Min||28||South Korea||KOR||37.274|
|96||Ri Jong-Song||22||North Korea||PRK||18.837|
|97||Kim Hyon-Il||27||North Korea||PRK||18.649|