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Hamm granted spot on U.S. Olympic gymnastics team; Horton also in

PHILADELPHIA -- Paul Hamm is going to his third Olympics, and he never had to do a routine.

The reigning Olympic gold medalist, who missed this week's trials with a broken hand, was selected for the U.S. team for the Beijing Games on Saturday afternoon, along with Jonathan Horton. The rest of the six-man team and/or a training squad will be announced Sunday afternoon.

"It's strange. It doesn't feel the same as it would for Jonathan," said Hamm, who still has to show he's physically ready to compete at a July 22 training camp. "I understand where the committee stands, and I feel I can do the job they want me to do. But it's definitely a little bittersweet for me.

"I haven't gone through my trials yet," he added. "I still have my trials process to go through."

Hamm is three weeks removed from surgery to repair a broken fourth metacarpal in his right hand, which occurred in the closing seconds of his parallel bars routine at the national championships. It will be another two weeks before he can do "moderate" gymnastics.

But putting him on the team was a no-brainer. He is the only American man to win the world title (2003) and Olympic gold medal (2004), and had firmly established himself as a favorite to defend his title in Beijing.

Despite a 2½-year layoff -- unheard of in elite gymnastics -- he had been better than ever this year. He won every competition he entered, and finished the first day of nationals with an almost four-point lead, a huge margin in a sport where medals are decided by tenths and hundredths of points.

He is ahead of schedule in his rehabilitation, and no one doubts he will not only be healthy in time for Beijing, but good enough to contend for medals -- for both himself and his country.

"I am so pumped and excited to be on this Olympic team and stand next to Paul Hamm, who I consider to be one of the best ever," Horton said. "To represent the United States with him ... it's going to be incredible."

The selection criteria for the men's team are a convoluted mix of top scores and percentages. The top two finishers in Saturday's competition were guaranteed spots on the team -- but only if they were in the top three in at least three events, too. Nobody was.

That meant the selection committee could put whoever it wanted in the two spots that had to be announced Saturday, and Horton was a logical choice.

Fourth at the world championships last fall, he's been largely overshadowed in Hamm's return this year. But he is consistent, and he is good. When scores from the national championships last month and this week's trials were combined and weighted, Horton had the top all-around score (90.750). He also had the second-highest scores on floor and still rings through the four-day competition, and was fourth on parallel bars and high bar -- and that was with falls on both days at nationals on high bar.

And, on Saturday, when the nerves were at their highest, Horton was rock steady. He had the highest all-around score, finishing more than a half-point ahead of David Durante, and had the second-best scores on floor, still rings, vault and parallel bars.

With two spots gone, the committee has to come up with the rest of the team. And it won't be easy.

"It's actually really interesting," Hamm said. "I feel bad for the selection committee. None of the athletes made it that easy. There are probably nine or so athletes in the mix."

Including his twin brother, Morgan.

Morgan Hamm is only eight months removed from a torn chest muscle, and he was slowed Saturday by a sore ankle. But he had the second-best performance on high bar through the four-day process, and posted the fourth-best scores on floor, vault and pommel horse. Those are the only four events he does.

"At this point, I've shown a lot of good events and ones the team is weak on," Morgan Hamm said.

Kevin Tan, Justin Spring, Joseph Hagerty, Sean Golden and Raj Bhavsar also showed they have something to contribute while Durante put on the day's most impressive performance. After struggling the first day of trials, he responded with his best meet since last year's national championships, where he won the title.

The biggest disappointment was Sasha Artemev. Instead of contending for one of the locked spots, he fell on pommel horse, his signature event, and high bar, and botched his vault, too.

Meanwhile, national gymnastics champion David Sender couldn't compete at the Olympic trials Saturday because he was still hobbled by a sprained ankle from a fluke training accident.

Sender didn't compete Thursday, but had held out hope he might be able to go in the finals.

He has already petitioned for a spot on the Olympic team.

"It's definitely not good to not be able to compete," Sender's coach, Thom Glielmi, said earlier this week. "He needs to be out there. He would be out there if the ankle permitted. That said, the selection committee is knowledgeable."

Sender was working on high bar Wednesday afternoon when he took a harmless fall. The bar continued to shake afterward, and he jumped up to steady it. But when he came back down, only the top half of his right foot landed on the thick mat and his foot rolled over. Sender fell to the ground in pain, grabbing his ankle.

Tests Wednesday showed Sender's ankle isn't broken and there are no torn ligaments. He returned to the arena on crutches after the tests and immediately began treatment.

Information from The Associated Press contributed to this report.