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Hamm Withdraws from Olympics; Bhavsar Added
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Hamm at the Pacific Rim Championships in March

Reigning Olympic champion Paul Hamm has withdrawn from the upcoming Olympic Games and will be replaced by alternate Raj Bhavsar, USA Gymnastics announced Monday.

Hamm, who suffered a broken hand in May, had been making an attempt to return in time for his third straight Olympic Games. He was named to the U.S. Olympic team in June via petition, and his status was confirmed following a preparation camp July 19.

On Monday, however, he announced that he felt he was not ready to compete in Beijing and that he will retire from gymnastics.

"I have put my heart and soul into my comeback and done everything I could to get ready in time to compete in Beijing," Hamm said in a statement. "After returning home from the preparation camp, I had a few physical setbacks, and it became clear to me that my physical preparations would not be sufficient to properly represent the United States and contribute to the team's efforts to win a medal."

Hamm underwent surgery shortly after the injury and had been making strong progress in returning to form. He said Monday, however, that his training had suffered in the past week.

"I recently strained my rotator cuff and have been unable to perform all of my skills," said Hamm, 25. "I am very grateful to have been given the opportunity to make a comeback. At this point in time, the success of the team and fairness to the team, and the alternates, is most important. While I am very disappointed, I feel I can wait no longer to make this decision."

Bhavsar, originally an alternate along with Sasha Artemev and David Durante, was added to the team lineup Monday. The 27-year-old Bhavsar was an alternate to the 2004 U.S. team.

"This is a tremendous honor and the first feeling that comes to mind is that dreams can come true," he said. "You never know when it will happen, but with enough positive intention and belief, it can. I am ready, willing and able to take on this great opportunity.

"Unfortunately, this comes at the expense of a great athlete, Paul Hamm. My heart goes out to him. He did an admirable thing, and he will always be a hero in my eyes. I also want to recognize the other two alternates, who are an important part of the soul and spirit of this team."

The team leaves Wednesday for Beijing, where the men's competition begins Aug. 9.

The U.S. men's team finished second to Japan at the 2004 Olympics in Athens, winning its first Olympic team medal since 1984.

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