After becoming the first American male to win the gold medal in menʼs gymnastics, Paul Hamm was stripped of his glory and made the center of controversy when the South Korean team claimed their gymnast Yang Taeyoung was incorrectly scored in this yearʼs summer Olympics. However, a ruling by the Sportʼs highest court in Switzerland this Thursday named Hamm as the champion in the menʼs allaround gymnastics competition. One of Yangʼs final events of the games was the parallel bars. This exercise had a starting value of 10.0, but had only received a starting value of 9.9 that evening, an error made by the judges.
With this error, Yang finished with a score of 57.774 while Hamm finished with 57.823. If this error hadnʼt been made, Yang would have won the gold instead of bronze, 0.051 points ahead of Hamm. The International Gymnastics Federation (FIG) recognized the error made by the three judges and suspended them. However, because the South Korean team did not appeal until after the meet was over, the scoring could not be changed.
FIG president Bruno Grandi wrote a letter to Hamm asking him to voluntarily give his gold medal to Yang and accept the silver. This letter was given to the U.S. Olympic Committee. They were asked to relay this letter to Hamm, but the USOC refused. On Sept. 27, Yangʼs appeal was heard by a panel of three judges at the head office of the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) head office.
Jeff Benz, U.S. Olympic Committee attorney, argued that there was no real guarantee that Yang would have won the gold without the scoring error because there was still one event left. There was no guarantee that everything would have turned out the same. The CAS ruled that the Korean complaint came too late and that the CAS did not have the power to correct the mistakes. “The solution for error, either way, lies within the framework of the sportʼs own rules,” the CAS panel said in an interview.
It does not allow for a judge to step in later to correct the error. “The decision from CAS confirms what Iʼve always felt in my heart, which is that I was champion that night and Olympic gold medallist. I was just pleased itʼs all over with,” stated Hamm in an interview. After a disappointing performance on the vault, it looked as if Hammʼs chances at even winning a medal were slim, let alone the gold. Hamm received a score of 9.137 for the vault, dropping to 12th place with two events left. Hamm received a score of 9.837 in the parallel bars and the high bars,to rally into first place, demonstrating one of the greatest comebacks in the history of gymnastics.
“They were [both] the victims of this unusual case because a shadow of doubt has been cast over Hammʼs achievement in winning the sportʼs most prestigious prize and because Yang may have been deprived of an opportunity of winning it,” according to a press release by the CAS.
“I feel like I had to win my medal in three ways,” Hamm stated in an interview last month with the Associated Press. “Obviously, in competition. Then with the media. Then in court. It really feels like Iʼve been battling this whole time.