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Sasha Artemev was the bronze medalist at the 2006 world championships, but he was doomed by consistency problems at nationals and the Olympic trials (he botched three of his four routines) and is an alternate. Of the top six at nationals and trials, only Morgan Hamm is going to Beijing, and his best score is probably going to be around a 15.
Compare that with the Chinese, who have three gymnasts who can put up a 15.4 or better. Or Romania, which has two athletes who can score 15.4 or higher.
"We already knew this team was great on floor exercise and high bar, and I don't think this changes that," Bhavsar said. "Pommel horse, I believe we just need three consistent scores. Rings is still stacked, vault is still stacked and parallel bars is very much stacked."
There was also the psychological edge Hamm gave the Americans. He is the only American to win a world (2003) or Olympic (2004) all-around title, and is as fierce a competitor as you will find anywhere in the world.
"You walk out on the floor, and other countries look at our team and that's intimidating because it's Paul Hamm," Horton said before Hamm got hurt in May. "They might not say it, but they know it."
But the Americans insist Hamm's loss didn't sap them of all their swagger. They still have Morgan Hamm, an Olympic silver medalist and one of the world's best on floor. They still have Horton, who missed the all-around bronze by a mere 0.2 points at last year's worlds, and Tan, who was fourth on rings.
Bhavsar is no slouch, either, a member of the United States' silver medal teams at the 2001 and 2003 world championships.
"Paul at his best is irreplaceable. But I believe in my heart that the team goal is the same, and it's definitely within our potential," Bhavsar said. "This is a tricky format (in team finals), and anything can happen. Things can absolutely work out in our favor.
"We're not ever going to give up on that dream."
Copyright 2008 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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