There's no more difficult moment in an athlete's career when injury takes away those world-class skills on the eve of the biggest competition of a lifetime. In gymnastics, as in so many other sports, the Olympics are the biggest and the best stage on which to perform. There's just nothing like the Olympic gymnastics contest - for any athlete who gets to compete, it's a once-in-a-lifetime chance.
Paul Hamm did everything he could to make it to Beijing after breaking a bone in his right hand in May during the U.S. championships. He rehabbed, he rested, he demonstrated to a selection committee a few days ago that he was competition-ready. But then, according to Hamm, he suffered a physical setback, and earlier today made the decision to withdraw from the team.
That's an honorable stance, coming as it does early enough for one of the men's gymnastics team alternates to get to Beijing - to have his own once-in-a-lifetime chance, as it were. But it's a tough moment for one of America's true Olympic stars. His accomplishments speak for themselves: an Olympic gold medalist in the all-around and a silver medalist for his team, and one of the finest gymnasts ever from the United States.
Best wishes to Paul for his recovery.