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.
A member of the gold medal-winning team at the 1984 Games, Bart Conner placed sixth in the individual all-around and won the gold on the parallel bars event finals with a perfect 10 score. He was also the world champion on parallel bars and the bronze medallist on vault at the 1979 World championships. Having been the 1978 NCAA all-around champion and the 1979 US National champion, he is the only American male gymnast to earn gold medals in all levels of competition–collegiate, national and international.
Mitch Gaylord first delighted the world as part of the gold-winning US Olympic gymnastics team at the 1984 Games, by becoming the first American gymnast to score a perfect 10. In addition, he went on to earn a silver on vault and two bronzes on rings and parallel bars. He invented two high bar techniques that are still being performed by many gymnasts today, the Gaylord Flip and the Gaylord II. They are still considered to be among the most difficult and spectacular skills in gymnastics.
Clinching a bronze on floor event finals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics, he became the first American gymnast to medal in a major international competition in forty-four years. Since retiring from competition, he has served as Head Gymnastics Coach at Ohio State University from 1989 to1996, as well as Head Coach of the U.S. Men’s Olympic team (1996, 2000) and World Championship team (1995, 1997, 1999).
At the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Trent Dimas was considered a dark horse to win the gold as it was widely believed that his compulsory performance on high bar was underscored. So he displayed his absolute best in his optional routine and qualified for his best event when both his compulsory and optional score were added. His winning routine was truly spectacular with a triple-somersault dismount perfectly landed. His gold medal was the lone gold medal awarded to an American gymnast at the Games; it was also the first ever gold medal received by a US Olympic gymnast, male or female, in a non-boycotted Olympics in sixty years.
Though Blaine Wilson did not win any individual World or Olympic medals, he has impressive credentials. He was a thirteen-time US National team member, five-time US National champion, five-time American Cup champion, a three-time Olympian, three-time World team member, 1998 Goodwill Games All-Around Bronze Medallist, and 2004 Athens Olympic Silver Medallist in team competition. He did come close to winning a World all-around medal when he placed fourth at the 1999 World championship, missing the bronze medal by only one-thousandth of a point (0.001). His total score was essentially the same as the score of the bronze medallist, with the difference attributable only to rounding-off discrepancy. (I guess that the International Gymnastics Federation does not know their arithmetic, as the same thing happened at the 2005 World championship when another American gymnast, Nastia Liukin, missed the all-around gold by the same margin.)
More articles on Greatest Athletes series:
- (Almost) Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Male Gymnasts in History
- 10 Greatest Female Gymnasts in History
- Greatest American Female Gymnasts
- Greatest American Male Gymnasts
- 10 Greatest Female Figure Skaters of All Time
- 10 Greatest Male Figure Skaters of All Time
Articles on the Olympics:
- Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Summer Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- More Unforgettable Winter Olympic Stories
- Unforgettable Moments of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games
- Unforgettable Moments of The 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics
- Michael Phelps: The Greatest Olympian of All Time
Golden Olympic Performances:
- Men Singles Figure Skating
- Ladies Singles Figure Skating
- Men’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise
- Men’s Gymnastics – Pommel Horse
- Men’s Gymnastics – Still Rings
- Men’s Gymnastics – Horizontal Bar
- Men’s Gymnastics – Parallel Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Uneven Bars
- Women’s Gymnastics – Balance Beam
- Women’s Gymnastics – Floor Exercise