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Glen Ellyn pair proud of Olympian grandkids

Paul Hamm works the parallel bars during the Olympic trials this month
Paul Hamm works the parallel bars during the Olympic trials this month  
By Judith Cookis
Daily Herald
August 29, 2000
Web posted at: 2:27 PM EDT (1827 GMT)

GLEN ELLYN, Illinois (Daily Herald) -- One grandmother's brag book will be extra thick this year. Jean Mooring's scrapbook will be filled with clippings of her grandsons - 17-year-old identical twins Paul and Morgan Hamm - who will compete for Olympic gold in Sydney next month during the men's gymnastics competition.

"I'm so excited. I've been telling everybody at work," said proud grandfather Paul Mooring, a retired nuclear physicist at Argonne National Laboratory.

"We know how good they are. I thought they had a really good chance," Jean said. "I'm trying to figure out where they got this talent. I don't think they got it from us."

Jean and Paul Mooring of Glen Ellyn, the same couple who helped develop the Illinois Prairie Path in 1965, learned Aug. 20 the young men would be the first set of twins to make a U.S. Olympic gymnastics team. The teens, who live in Waukesha, Wis., are also among the youngest Olympians.

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The duo qualified Aug. 19 in Boston to join the six-man team that includes third-time Olympian John Roethlisberger of Minnesota; five-time national champion Blaine Wilson of Ohio; and Sean Townsend and Stephen McCain, both of Texas.

"We've had calls from relatives all around the country," said Jean, whose daughter, Cecily Hamm, is the twins' mother. Cecily, who was raised in Glen Ellyn, settled in Wisconsin after college with the twins' father, Sandy, who was a nationally ranked diver in high school.

The brothers have been mobbed by the national media since the trials, but they got a warm welcome in Waukesha last week. They now head to San Diego for a week of grueling training.

"It's just so much better that Morgan made it with me," said Paul, from his home.

Paul finished second in the trials, earning an automatic spot on the team. Morgan, who gave his best all-around performance, finished sixth. The USA Gymnastics committee handpicked Morgan for one of two at-large spots, citing his strengths on vault and floor exercise.

"I didn't know if they were going to pick me or not ... it was really hard," said Morgan, adding the ensuing attention has been a bit surreal.

"It's a little overwhelming actually. The day we got back they had a big party for us at our (Wisconsin) gym, and there were lots of news stations."

The twins now are gearing up to meet their new teammates and set their sights on a medal.

Despite their age - the twins will have to skip the start of their senior year of high school - Morgan said he doesn't feel too much added pressure to shine. The spotlight probably will be on his teammates, who are already well-known competitors, he said.

"I think there is less pressure on us because we're younger," Morgan said.

"Our team is really strong. There's no single weak event," Paul added. "I'm really confident we can hit it."

The twins grew up in Waukesha, about 20 minutes from Milwaukee, and started gymnastics at age 7 because their older sister, Betsy, was doing it.

"It looked like so much fun," Paul said. "Dad got us some equipment to train on."

The equipment was nothing fancy - a steel high bar in the back yard and makeshift parallel bars made of old stairway rails - but it was enough to keep them interested.

Soon, they joined their gym, Swiss Turners, and paired up with coach Stacy Maloney, who will travel with them to Australia.

Cecily Hamm is thrilled both her boys will get to experience the same thrills.

"That was a huge worry," she said. "It was a good outcome."

"(The Olympics) have been a dream of ours since we were little kids. Last year, we really started shooting for it," Paul added.

Before they got too busy with practices and Olympic trials, the twins used to visit Glen Ellyn regularly with their family. They would do local things, like stop by the annual Cardboard Boat Regatta at Lake Ellyn.

Always active, the boys would run their grandparents wild.

"They were tree climbers," Paul Mooring recalled.

"We'd take them sledding at Newton Park ... one of them ran over Betsy, they were trying to go too fast," Jean Mooring said. "It was almost dangerous for them to visit the Moorings."

Traditionally, the Olympic committee only pays the way for one parent to attend the games, which open with ceremonies on Sept. 15. But because each teen is allowed one parent, both Sandy and Cecily will get to make the trip Down Under.

Jean and Paul Mooring, however, will catch the action from their living room.

"We'll probably see what happens better right here in front of the TV," Jean said. "We already have the schedule."



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