Twin Gymnasts Go to Sydney

The U.S. Olympic men’s gymnastics team will be one-third Hamm.

That’s because identical twin brothers Paul and Morgan Hamm will fill two of the six spots on the team, becoming the first set of American twin gymnasts to compete together in the Olympics. Their outstanding performances Saturday night at the Olympic trials solidified their dream.

“It’s a mindboggling feeling,” their mother, Cecily Hamm, said Saturday night after seeing 10 years of work reach a conclusion beyond what anyone could have imagined even 12 months ago.

“The last few weeks have been so long. It seemed like too much to hope for.”

Roethlisberger Mounts Comeback

Cecily Hamm’s enthusiasm was matched perhaps only by four-time national champion John Roethlisberger, who was all but counted out after three huge gaffes at the trials Thursday night had dropped him to 12th place.

But he was downright spectacular Saturday night, sticking his vault routine and cruising through a floor exercise that had given him trouble at the three previous meets.

“It’s the sweetest, by far,” said the 30-year-old, who broke into tears upon hearing he’d made his third Olympic team. “Just what I had to do to get here made it the sweetest.”

Dashed Dreams for Natalie

The team was determined by combining scores from last month’s nationals and this week’s Olympic trials, with the top four finishers automatically earning slots. Those spots went to five-time champion Blaine Wilson, who finished first overall with 116.545 points, Paul Hamm, Sean Townsend and Stephen McCain.

A selection committee, headed by U.S. coach Peter Kormann, picked the remaining two “at-large” gymnasts who could shore up the team’s weaknesses. Those picks? Seventh-place finisher and rings master Roethlisberger, and Morgan Hamm, who finished sixth.

Not making the team was Jamie Natalie, although his fifth-place finish put him higher than the two “at-large” gymnasts. But Natalie took the turn of events in stride.

“They could just pick the top six guys, but that might not be the best team,” Natalie said. “You have to put the best team on the floor. I can see where they’re coming from. Morgan is absolutely great on floor and vault. And John is great on the other four events. It’s a no-brainer.”

Identical Dream

The twin sons of All-American diver Sandy Hamm got involved in gymnastics because their older sister, Betsy, was a gymnast. Paul followed Betsy into the sport, and Morgan followed Paul shortly thereafter.

Their father coaxed Sandy Maloney, a former U.S. national gymnast in the late 1970s and early ’80s to give up aspirations of being a rock musician to train his sons, who were then 8 years old. Maloney said he immediately saw Olympics-worthy talent and signed on to coach the brothers, who will turn 18 on Sept. 24.

Ten years later, Maloney is both proud and a bit surprised about the twins’ enormous success.

“I’d have to say it’s a stunner,” Maloney said Saturday night. “Morgan was going to have to hurry to make it. He had the best meet of his life today.”

He did, and now he and his brother are realizing their dream — together.

“If he made it and I didn’t, he would go on tour after the Olympics and I would go back to school,” Morgan said of his brother, Paul. “That would have been difficult.”

Mark Hansen, principal of Waukesha South High School in Wisconsin where the brothers are seniors, told the school is going to plan something special to celebrate the teens’ accomplishments.

“For a school to have one Olympian is very special. To have two, well, it’s just unprecedented around here.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.