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Paul Hamm: 'I competed my heart out'


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Paul, left, and Morgan Hamm
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Gymnast Paul Hamm became the first-ever American to win the men's all-around title in one of the closest-ever Olympic competitions. South Korea protested saying a scoring error cost them the gold medal.

CNN's Anderson Cooper spoke with Hamm and his twin brother, Morgan, another member of the U.S. gymnastics team, which took home the silver medal in the men's team all-around competition.

COOPER: The greatest comeback in the history of gymnastics it's been called. Take us through the event, that feeling when you knew you got the gold.

P. HAMM: Well, the first time I knew when I got the medal when my coach yelled to me, "Olympic champion" and I was, like, no. I didn't believe it. It was hard for me to comprehend at the time because I wasn't expecting to score so high and I wasn't expecting to be Olympic champ. I was like, "Oh, my god. I did it. I've done what I came here to do."

COOPER: It was two days later, I think, on Friday that you heard the South Koreans would be protesting. What did you think?

P. HAMM: At first when I heard about the Koreans' protest I thought it was nothing significant. I thought they were just upset with the way the routine was scored. I didn't know it was a technical issue with the start value, but once I realized that there had been a mistake with the start value then I kind of decided that this was, you know, a more serious issue.

COOPER: The image most people have of athletes in the Olympics is that you're sort of -- you're protected and you're surrounded by these official bodies. It sounds like you were kind of on your own, though. I read that you got most of your information about what was going on from the Internet.

P. HAMM: Yes. A lot of the time I did not know what the FIG [International Gymnastics Federation] had decided ... and what I was doing was basically looking on the Internet to see what reporters had been saying because no one had contacted me. Not a single person. The first time that I was even informed about it, like, you know, specifically was, I had a meeting with the president of USA Gymnastics and he informed me that this protest is going on, and he said but there's nothing that can be done about it according to the rules. You're still going to be the gold medalist.

COOPER: Do you feel he was being honest with you?

P. HAMM: At that time, you know, that's what I had understood. That there was really nothing that could be done about it and I think the only thing that kept this whole story going was the media because according to the FIG they said from the very beginning this matter could not be changed.

COOPER: But it also seems to be kept going by some officials. I mean, in the IOC, the USOC, who would say kind of to reporters maybe he -- maybe he should just give back the medal on his own.

P. HAMM: Reporters have told me that Bruno Grande from the FIG said that we're not going to make a decision to have Paul give back the medal, but he said I think he should and then he gestured [as if he was taking a medal from around his neck] to them and that's what the media had told me.

COOPER: When you heard that what did you think, how did you feel?

P. HAMM: I was disappointed because they were kind of putting the whole decision on me when in fact they're the ones that are supposed to be making the decision in the first place and they just seemed as if they were trying to run and hide and, you know, not deal with the situation.

COOPER: Did you feel let down by the various Olympic committees?

P. HAMM: You know, for me, personally I went to the Olympics just trying to make my country proud of everything that I've done in my life as far as gymnastics, and I did my job. I competed my heart out. I followed all of the rules and then to have the governing bodies sort of putting the pressure on me to make these decisions kind of made me feel that I had been left out there by myself.

COOPER: I understand you wanted to hold a press conference Monday night, after you won the silver, basically showing a videotape of the event and the South Korean's performance and basically showing where he could have been even sort of scored even lower when you were advised by the head of the USA Gymnastics, don't do it, the whole thing's blowing over.

P. HAMM: Basically what was going to happen was some of the coaches and the Olympic coach was going to go over the Korean's routine and try to point out, you know, to the public that not only there was a mistake made that was in the start value, but there was also a mistake made by overlooking a deduction as well, and I was advised not [to] do that by USA Gymnastics and Bob Colarossi, and he basically said, you know what? Let's just do a press release. This whole thing will die down. I thought at the time that, you know, it was probably, you know, the best thing to do, but things did not seem to die down after that.

COOPER: What was it like for you, Morgan? I mean, we're seeing Paul go through all this, seeing this sort of firestorm?

M. HAMM: It was tough for both of us. I mean, we still had to compete when a lot of the stuff was going on. So I had to tell him, you know, to concentrate on his gymnastics and not to deal with this too much, because he still had to go out there. And he did a great job. He went out there and ... you know, even when the crowd [was] booing before he went, and got a silver medal. So I'm very proud of him.

COOPER: How does it feel to wear the medal?

M. HAMM: It's amazing. You know, I think a couple of guys slept with it that night. I personally didn't, but it feels awesome. It's a dream come true.

COOPER: 2008, you guys want to be there?

M. HAMM: Definitely. I think we're going to train for that and see how it goes.

COOPER: You as well, Paul? 2008?

P. HAMM: Yeah. We're both trying to -- planning to finish our career probably then. And we're not sure. We may continue on after that, but right now we're just focusing on these next four years.

COOPER: Thank you guys for coming. Thanks very much.

P. HAMM: Thank you.


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