D.C.'s Lynch wins silver on parallel bars 1st African-American male to medal in gymnastics

Atlanta Olympics

July 30, 1996|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,SUN STAFF

ATLANTA THE ASSOCIATED PRESS CONTRIBUTED TO THIS ARTICLE. — ATLANTA -- Ten minutes to go. The callus was about to pop. But gymnast Jair Lynch of Washington had no time to wait last night.

It was the Summer Olympics. His last event, the parallel bars. And his last chance to win a medal.

So he took out a razor, sliced off the callus, stanched the blood, and went for the medal. And he got it.

Lynch claimed the silver in the parallel bars, giving the U.S. men their only medal at the Summer Games. He also became the first African-American man to claim an Olympic gymnastics medal.

"I think I've been breaking barriers throughout my career," Lynch said. "Hopefully, what I've done will help other athletes.

"Seeing people like myself, others can make a splash in the sport. I didn't play football or basketball. You can make a difference in this sport."

Lynch made a difference last night, ignoring the blood and the pain to gain a score of 9.825 and finish behind Rstam Sharipov of Ukraine (9.837). Vitaly Scherbo of Belarus was third.

Lynch said he thought he had the event won, and dropped to his knee when his score was posted.

"I thought I'd get a 9.850," he said. "But I'm satisfied with the silver. I did something I wasn't supposed to do."

Scherbo looked as if he might get his record-tying seventh gold after his parallel bars routine. As he finished, he threw his arms into the air and screamed, "Yeah!"

But Sharipov topped Scherbo on the next routine. Scherbo congratulated Sharipov, then walked off, clasping his hands behind his head.

Lynch said he will go back to work as a real estate developer with a California-based company. The son of a college professor and consultant to the World Bank, Lynch is devoted to boosting inner-city development.

Asked if he had a message for his friends in Washington, Lynch said: "Yes. I'm going to go to the White House, have some fun, and show this medal to everyone."

As expected, the rest of the men's competition turned into a free-for-all between athletes from the former Soviet Union.

Russia's Alexei Nemov, the all-around champion, won the gold in the vault, ahead of South Korea's Yeo Hong-Chul (silver) and Scherbo (bronze).

The crowd roared when Scherbo stepped onto the runway, but he showed no reaction, staring intently at the vault. He took off, his legs pumping as he flew down the runway before cartwheeling onto the takeoff board, pushing high off the vault and twisting 2 1/2 times.

His landing wasn't perfect as he took a slight hop, but the crowd still booed when his first score of 9.712 was posted. He clapped his hands together once as he prepared for his second vault.

Scherbo was off-center as he hit the vault on his second effort, nearly missing it. But he soared high, then windmilled his arms to save a solid landing. He acknowledged the crowd's cheer with a wave and a slight smile, smiling again as they booed his second score.

The 9.737 gave him a combined score of 9.724, good for third place.

Germany's Andreas Wecker got the gold in the horizontal bar. Bulgaria's Krasimir Dounev won the silver. The judges staged a three-way tie for the bronze between Scherbo, Fan Bin of China and Nemov.

Pub Date: 7/30/96

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