By Gregg Hoffmann Special to Published Aug 19, 2004 at 5:06 AM

{image1}Paul and Morgan Hamm looked like a couple of kids when this writer covered them in the 2000 Olympics in Sydney.

While the Waukesha-born twins still have their boyish good looks, they have grown up. The now mature pair helped the U.S. men's gymnastics team make history this week.

Both contributed to a team silver medal on Monday night. That was the first U.S. medal in Olympic gymnastics in 20 years. Paul then went on to become the first American male gymnast to win the gold medal in the individual overall competition Wednesday.

The groundwork for Athens was set in Sydney, where the Hamms, then 17, knew they were in for a learning experience.

"I am proud of myself," said Paul at the time. "It's my first Olympics so that's a good first step. I really didn't know what to expect. This is the first huge international competition I've been in."

About the team medal this year, Paul said, "After Sydney, we kind of were a little disappointed, and we got kind of upset with ourselves. We went back and said, 'We are going to make improvements.' From then on out, we have been the silver medallists in every world championships and this Olympics Games as well. That was kind of the determining point."

Paul, the favorite in the overall, almost looked Wednesday like he might pull a Dan Jansen, another Olympian from Wisconsin who fell and cost himself a gold medal in speedskating in his first attempt.

Hamm stumbled at the end of his dismount in the vault and hit the edge of the judge's table. But, he recovered to pull off two almost perfect events and win the gold.

"I thought, 'that's it. I'm done'," Hamm told the Associated Press after he won the gold medal. "I'm happy right now. Shocked really. To be in first place after that kind of mistake; I thought there was no chance to win."

The Hamms have not been the only athletes with Wisconsin ties to win a medal at Athens. Neil Walker, a native of Verona, won the bronze medal in the 400-meter freestyle relay in swimming. Dede Demet Barry, a Milwaukee native, took a silver medal in cycling. Rebecca Giddens of Green Bay won a silver medal in kayaking.

Mike Wherley of Sun Prairie advanced to the finals as part of the U.S. Men's Four rowing team. Chris Ahrens of Milwaukee and Beau Hoopman of Hartland are on the Men's Eight rowing team that had the best time in the semis and will compete this weekend.

More Wisconsin athletes will compete in upcoming events of the Games. Check for periodic updates at the end of this column and more in next Thursday's Weekend Sports Buzz.

I-94 Rivalry

With the Brewers out of the wild card race and below .500, Miller Park has once again turned into Wrigley Field North for the current 3-game series with the Cubs. The vast majority of fans are rooting for the Cubbies.

But, that hasn't stopped the Brewers from competing with their I-94 rivals. Victor Santos pitched six solid innings in a 3-1 Milwaukee win on Tuesday night. Ben Sheets had a shaky start Wednesday night, but the Brewers hung in the game until extra innings.

Nomar Garciaparra is a great addition to the Cubs' lineup. He had a big game Wednesday night. But, if the Cubs don't hit homers, they have trouble scoring in most games. That will hurt them in the stretch run for the wild card spot, and in the post-season if they make it.

Meanwhile, the Brewers continue to seek any type of attack they can muster. Russell Branyan accounted for all of it Wednesday with two homers. He has been one of the most productive hitters since acquired in a minor league trade.

Scott Podsednik and Jenkins came into Wednesday night's game hitting only .248 each. Wes Helms has played himself out of the lineup, no matter whether a righthander or lefty is on the mound. Bill Hall, who was a part-time player early in the season, was third on the team in RBIs with 43 going into Wednesday.

GM Doug Melvin will have to decide over the winter whether these players just had off-years, or whether he needs to get some additional hitting through some deals. The kids look like they will need at least an additional season in the minors before they can help.

While the first half of the season was encouraging for the Brewers, it now is evident they need more punch if .500 is realistic this season or next.

Hot Tix

The Packers will play their second pre-season game this Saturday night against the Saints at Lambeau Field. The Pack is coming off a poor performance in a loss to Seattle in their pre-season opener on Monday night, but then pre-season games mean very little.

At Miller Park, the Brewers wrap up their I-94 series against the Cubs with a 1:05 p.m. game Thursday. Chris Capuano will face Cubs' great Greg Maddux.

The Crew then hosts the Phillies this weekend with a 7:05 p.m. game Friday, a 6:05 p.m. contest Saturday and 1:05 p.m. game Sunday.

Wave United plays its last regular season home game Thursday when it hosts Edmonton at 7:35 p.m. at Uihlein Soccer Park.

College football fans might want to mark their calendars for Sept. 1 and 2, when a special on the late Ohio State football coach Woody Hayes will air on MPTV Channel 10. The special, set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 1 and 9 p.m. on Sept. 2, is produced by the Duncan Group of Milwaukee and Crouse Entertainment Group.

While on college football, look for previews of state college football and the UW Badgers in September Sports Buzz columns.

Gregg Hoffmann Special to
Gregg Hoffmann is a veteran journalist, author and publisher of Midwest Diamond Report and Old School Collectibles Web sites. Hoffmann, a retired senior lecturer in journalism at UWM, writes The State Sports Buzz and Beyond Milwaukee on a monthly basis for OMC.