Victory Is (Finally) Sweet

UPDATED 12/27/2004 at 01:00 AM EST Originally published 12/27/2004 at 01:00 AM EST

VICTORY IS (FINALLY) SWEET

Who'd have thought hanging onto an Olympic Medal would be as hard as winning one? Ask gymnast Paul Hamm, who captured the gold in an emotional come-from-behind effort only to have contested two days later. South Korean "officials claimed a judges' scoring error had penalized bronze medalist Yang Tae Young. "I couldn't believe it was happening," says Hamm, 22, "but there were times that I gave definite thought to giving it back." Happily, the Court of Arbitration for Sport ruled he could keep the medal—and his title of first American to win the men's gymnastics all-around Olympic honor. "It's what I've always dreamed of," he says. (He won two silvers as well) Tucking the medal away in a sock drawer at his parents' home in Waukesha, Wis., Hamm hit the road with the Rock 'n Roll Gymnastics tour, made the talk show rounds and accepted VH1's Big Bummer Moment of '04 Award. The controversy lost him the coveted Wheaties box to three other Olympians, but he has signed with Chevron and Visa. With twin brother and fellow gymnast Morgan, he plans to finish his last two years of school and has begun training for the 2008 Games. "What I want everyone to remember," he says, "is the fact that I was able to pull myself all the way from 12th place to first place."

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