Greatest American Male Gymnasts
The US men’s gymnastics team has greatly improved in the world rankings over the past decade or so. However, with respect to individual performances, they are still lagging behind when compared to their female counterpart. US women’s gymnastics has produced seven World/Olympic all-around champions compared to just one for the men. As follows is a list of American male gymnast, who have won World and Olympic medals with some exceptions.
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Very strong on all apparatus, it is no surprise that Paul Hamm is a three-time US National all-around champion (2002-2004). In the 2003 World championships held in Anaheim, he became the very first American male gymnast to capture the world all-around title. At the 2004 Athens Olympics, he also became the first and only American male gymnast to win the Olympic all-around gold by the closest margin (0.012) in Olympic history. His Olympic all-around gold would subsequently be called into question on account of a scoring issue. The South Korean bronze medallist Yang Tae Young was erroneously given a start value of 9.9 instead of 10.0 in the parallel bars; and the resulting difference was the difference between the bronze and the gold medal. After much deliberation that even reached the Court of Arbitration for Sport, the final verdict issued was that the results would remain as it was. Hamm also won the 2003 World title on floor, three team silvers (2002 and 2003 Worlds, 2004 Olympics), a silver on high bar (2004 Olympics) and a bronze on floor (2002 Worlds), making him the most bemedalled American male gymnast. He qualified for a spot on the 2008 US Olympic gymnastics team in the hope to securing a less controversial gold but had to withdraw two weeks prior to the Games due to aggravated hand and shoulder injury.
Kurt Thomas was a member of the US Olympic team at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. In 1978 World championship, he became the first American male gymnast to gain the floor exercise gold medal in a major international competition. He would go on to win six medals at the 1979 World championship: gold medals on floor and horizontal bar; silvers in the all-around, pommel horse and parallel bars; and a team bronze. His dream of winning a few gold medals at the 1980 Moscow Olympics was dashed as the US government boycotted the Games. He created a skill known as the “Thomas flare,” which is still a very popular skill among modern gymnasts performed on pommel horse and sometimes on floor exercise.
At the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, which the Soviet bloc nations boycotted except for Romania, Peter Vidmar proved himself not only as one of the world’s great gymnasts but also an exceptional leader as well. He captained the US men’s gymnastics team to its first ever Olympic gold medal in a dramatic upset over the defending world champions, the People’s Republic of China. He went on to capture the all-around silver becoming the first American male gymnast to win an individual all-around Olympic medal; and the pommel horse gold medal.