- The Washington Times - Monday, August 23, 2004

ATHENS — A sore right leg didn’t keep Gaithersburg’s Courtney Kupets from grabbing an individual medal on uneven bars.

The 18-year-old from Magruder High School in Rockville nailed her bars routine for the fourth time in Athens and picked up a bronze medal for her efforts.

“I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Kupets said, even though U.S. teammate Terin Humphrey knocked her from second place with the final routine of the night.

“It doesn’t really matter because Terin’s my teammate,” Kupets said. “It’s just awesome.”

The two Americans finished behind gold medalist Emilie Lepennec of France but helped the United States increase its gymnastics medal haul to seven yesterday, the most since the Americans won 16 at the boycotted Los Angeles Games in 1984.

And they might not be finished yet.

Kupets has a shot at another individual medal tonight on balance beam, which she skipped during the team finals Tuesday because of leg pain. Paul Hamm is in two event finals tonight, while Morgan Hamm, all-around champion Carly Patterson and Mohini Bhardwaj are in one each.

Annia Hatch picked up a silver medal for the United States yesterday on the vault, where she was runner-up to Romania’s Monica Rosu. Anna Pavlova of Russia was third.

“I think it was a pretty awesome finish,” said U.S. women’s coach Kelli Hill, who coaches Kupets in Gaithersburg. “We like seeing three girls compete today and three girls walk away with hardware.”

Greek fans had something to cheer about, too. Dimosthenis Tampakos sent the Olympic Indoor Hall into a frenzy on the final event of the night, winning gold on still rings. Tampakos was the first of eight competitors, and the hometown fans — including local Games chief Gianna Angelopoulos-Daskalaki — roared each time a score was posted and Tampakos maintained his hold on first place.

Jordan Jovtchev of Bulgaria won the silver, and Italy’s Yuri Chechi took the bronze.

“It was the best moment for my life and thank God for it,” Tampakos said as music from the movie “Zorba the Greek” played in the background.

When the Greek national anthem played, it sounded as if the entire arena was singing, and many stuck around after the medals ceremony for an impromptu party.

Svetlana Khorkina wasn’t one of them. The Russian diva’s Olympic career ended with a thud when she fell off the uneven bars, and she quickly stalked out of the arena. Khorkina didn’t even stick around to watch the final bars performance, leaving before Humphrey went.

Paul Hamm failed to medal in either of his events, finishing fifth on floor and sixth on pommel horse. But he was more upset with the International Gymnastics Federation, which acknowledged Saturday a scoring error wrongly gave him the gold in the all-around over Yang Tae-young of South Korea. Though FIG says it cannot change the results, the South Koreans plan to appeal to the Court of Arbitration for Sport in hopes of getting a duplicate gold medal.

“The people I’m a little bit upset with is the FIG because this matter should have never even come up,” Hamm said. “Reviewing videotape isn’t even allowed in the rules. Rules can’t be changed after the competition is over. Right now, I personally feel I shouldn’t even be dealing with this.”

The Americans would, of course, prefer to bask in the glory of all those medals.

They left Sydney red-faced four years ago, failing to win a single medal for the first time since 1972. They promised things would be different in the future, and they were right.

The U.S. men won a silver in the team competition, their first medal since the Golden Gang of 1984. The U.S. women also won a silver; it could have been gold if not for some sloppy mistakes.

Paul Hamm became the first U.S. man to win the Olympic all-around, and Patterson became the first woman since Mary Lou Retton in 1984 to win gymnastics’ biggest prize.

“That makes us just so excited to start raking them in,” Kupets said. “Hopefully, we’ll keep that going.”

Hatch started the heavy-metal fest. She took a hop to the right on the landing of her first vault, and the error was reflected in her score of 9.4. Her husband and coach, Alan, told her not to worry about it, that she would do better on the second vault.

She did. She cartwheeled onto the takeoff board, did a handspring onto the vault and then quickly popped off. She added two somersaults, soaring so high she could have thrown in another twist. There was a slight hop on her landing, but Hatch already was beaming when she saluted the judges.

Her score of 9.481 put her second to Rosu, but Hatch was elated nonetheless.

“It just feels like a story,” said the 26-year-old Cuban native, who ended a five-year retirement and came back from a severe knee injury last summer. “I feel special. I feel like a star.”

Kupets almost had a silver, too, but teammate Humphrey bumped her down a step on the medals podium.

Humphrey sailed from bar to bar with such ease she appeared weightless. She was so ramrod straight on a pirouetting handstand on the top bar it seemed as if an invisible wire was pulling her taut.

Her dismount, two laid-out somersaults, was perfect, and she slammed into the mat with such force it could be heard all over the arena. Humphrey knew her score was going to be just as solid, throwing her head back with a wide grin.

The U.S. men weren’t so fortunate.

Paul Hamm came up short on both floor and pommel horse, while Morgan Hamm finished eighth on floor. He got a 0.10 deduction that he and coach Miles Avery initially thought was for going over the 90-second time limit. But Avery later said he wasn’t so sure.

“I don’t know what the phantom tenth was for Morgan. Maybe they thought he was Paul,” Avery said, referring to the all-around scoring dispute.

Kyle Shewfelt won Canada’s first gold in gymnastics on floor, with Marian Dragulescu of Romania second and Jovtchev third. Teng Haibin of China upset three-time world champion Marius Urzica on the pommel horse, with Urzica taking silver and Takehiro Kashima getting the bronze.

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