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Olympians visit Mohegan Sun to Rock & Roll
The Mohegan Sun Arena was packed on Tuesday, August 31, when a piece of Athens came to town. The 2004 Rock & Roll Gymnastics Championships Tour brought gold medalists, past and present, together with energetic routines and exhilarated fans.
Topping the bill for this event were four of Team USA’s best athletes: Olympic gold medalist in Men’s All-Around and silver medalist in Men’s High Bar Paul Hamm, team silver medalists Morgan Hamm and Blaine Wilson, and former Olympic champion Shannon Miller.
The evening provided a welcome change of pace for these athletes, most of whom were involved in Olympic competition just one week prior. Rather than performing rigorous routines designed to win gold, they were able to show their personalities by performing to current music ranging from Linkin Park to Christina Aguilera.
The crowd came to life when they heard Usher’s “Yeah” as the Hamm twins took the floor. Showing off fancy footwork and stylish dance moves, Paul and Morgan let their fans know that they could do more than their usual impressive tumbling passes.
Wilson was not to be underestimated either, showing off his skills to Outkast’s “The Way You Move.” He also performed on the high bar, along with the Hamms, illustrating some of the talent that brought the USA their Olympic team silver.
Making a special guest appearance was Miller on balance beam, a two-time Olympian and the most decorated USA gymnast with 7 medals – 2 gold, 2 silver and 3 bronze.
One of the most memorable aspects of the night was a floor program called “The Matrix.” The men played the roles of Neo (P. Hamm) and Agent Smiths (M. Hamm and Wilson, among others) in an elaborately choreographed mock-fight sequence that raised the crowd into a roar.
The athletes are not without drama now that the Olympics are over. The past few weeks have seen many stories and press releases regarding the Men’s All-Around competition. Judging mistakes in the performance of bronze medalist Tae Young Yang from South Korea were reported that could have altered medal standings and potentially stripped Paul Hamm of his gold medal in the event.
Following a careful review, the decision was made by the International Federation of Gymnastics (FIG) not to make any changes. However, Paul was still being pushed by many media outlets to hand back his medal in the name of fair play.
When asked about the controversy, Morgan said that the whole situation should not have happened. “The FIG basically broke their rules to even review the tape…You just don’t do that,” Morgan said. “The funny thing is if you actually go back and look at the routine [of Yang] there were two errors…He could have actually been in fourth place and not in first.”
Even with all of that hanging over his head, Morgan said that his brother has been doing well. “[Paul] is really sticking to what he believes and I’m really proud of that,” Morgan said.
Thankful to be away from competition, the athletes are excited to be a part of the Rock & Roll tour. “You don’t have to worry about any scores,” Wilson said. “This is more for the audience and more for the athletes’ personalities to come out.”
Morgan agreed, saying, “We’ve done the Olympic Games, been through all of the pressure of that, and now it’s great to come out here and get to perform in front of our fans and all of the people who appreciate what we’ve done.”
The tour is tentatively set to end on October 13 in Cincinnati, Oh. Beyond the tour, the athletes have very different plans for the future. “I am actually getting out of the competition end, so this will probably be something that I continue for the next couple of years,” Wilson said. “I am ready to retire.”
On the other side, Morgan plans to get right into other things in the fall. “[Paul and I] are probably going to go back to training a little bit,” he said, “but we are going to take a little bit of time off even after the tour.” He plans on visiting family and friends before enrolling in Ohio State University in the winter. Morgan is halfway through his degree in pre-Physical Therapy.
With all of the Olympic hype behind him, Wilson reflected on the applause that he received from the crowd during the evening’s performance. “It’s awesome. Hopefully it never stops, but who knows. I’m getting old,” Wilson said with a laugh. “We’ll see.”