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2004-08-25 - 4:55 p.m.

Almost everyone, at some point in their life, gets the chance to be great. Our fifteen minutes laid out for us to grab, if we dare.

A chance at virtual immortality - well, few people ever see the chance and almost no one gets to choose if they want it.

Paul Hamm has proven, time and again, he's great.

He missed his chance to be immortal.

For posterity's sake: Paul Hamm won the Gold Medal in the Men's All Around Gymnastics competition at the 2004 Olympics in Greece. This was after he had such a bad vault, he actually fell onto the judges trying to regain his balance.

Here, he proves he is great. He shakes off what would arguably upset anyone, and puts up two more incredible performances that give him the gold, beating South Korea’s Kim Dae-eun by .012 points, and Kim’s countryman, Yang Tae-young by 0.049. Hamm overcame everything and got the score he needed.

After the competition, however, it was discovered that the Bronze Medal winner, Yang Tae-Young, was scored incorrectly. His routine was scored with a starting value of 9.90. It should have started with 10.00. With this error, his new score put him .051 points ahead of Hamm, making him the All-Around Champion.

Here is where virtual immortality is in Paul Hamm's grasp, and he misses it.

On Sunday night, Hamm competed for individual medals in two disciplines. All he had to do was call members of the South Korean delegation beforehand, tell them to meet him in the packed arena before the competition, and hang his medal around Yang Tae-young’s neck.

A packed arena would have erupted in cheers that you could have heard at the bottom of a well in Montana. Women everywhere would still be weeping a week from now at the nobility of the gesture, and not a few men would be weeping with them.

Not because it is something Hamm had to do, but because it is something he or anyone in his situation should do.

He could have shown the world that Americans still believe in sportsmanship and generate the kind of goodwill that this country needs, no matter how many times we point out that Iraq and Afghanistan wouldn't be there if it weren't for us.

Nadia's Perfect Night.

Mary Lou Retton's Beaming Smile.

Kerri Strug's Couragous Vault.

and Paul Hamm's Gift...

Well, we still have 6' supermodel softball players, and some really cool Visa commercials.


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