NASHVILLE, Tenn. - All Blaine Wilson wanted last night was to make people say "holy cow" in head-shaking wonderment when he walked on the floor for the U.S. Gymnastics Championships.
Thirteen weeks after surgery to repair a torn left biceps tendon, the old man of the men's gymnastics squad wanted to let people know not to scratch him off the roster of the Olympics team yet.
His divine bovine moment will have to wait. After saying he might try two of the six events, Wilson, 29, withdrew from the competition when a team official asked him if he was going to try to compete and then submit an injury petition to be included in the Olympic Trials at the end of the month.
"The decision was made for us," said Wilson's coach, Miles Avery. "We were told not to compete with the petition pending."
Paul Hamm, the current all-around world champion, is on his way to his third consecutive national title after a first-day score of 57.70.
Brett McClure, a two-time silver medalist in the world championships, was second with a score of 56.825. In third with 56.325 points was Hamm's twin, Morgan, who strung together a consistent performance after a shaky effort on the still rings.
But those performances were overshadowed by the bizarre turn of events involving Wilson.
Avery said Ron Galimore, the senior director of the men's program, came up to him before the parallel bars, the third event, to advise him and he informed Wilson.
"It stinks," said Wilson, the two-time Olympian. "It's a good thing they said something to Miles or I'd have been toast."
But Galimore insisted Wilson could have tested his injury, decided he wasn't fit and then submitted his petition.
"The petition is for people who are injured and can't compete," Galimore said. "I didn't tell him what to do. I asked him what he was going to do."
The preliminary competition in six events - floor exercise, still rings, vault, pommel horse, parallel bars and high bar - had a field of 36 men, all of whom are hoping to make the top 12 and get an invitation to the Olympic Trials in Anaheim, Calif., at the end of the month.
Paul Hamm proved his reputation as one of the best on the high bar. His three high-flying releases earned him a 9.80, with a start (difficulty) value of 10.0. It was the second-highest score of the night and moved him from fourth to first place with two events to go.
He followed the high-bar routine with a 9.8 in floor exercise and a 9.725 on pommel horse.
"It was close coming into the end of the meet," Hamm said of McClure's standing just .200 behind him with one event to go last night. "It shows how strong a team we are that anyone can come up and knock you off."
The men will vie for the all-around title in competition tomorrow night.
Tonight, the women will perform their four individual events: vault, uneven bars, balance beam and floor exercise. The all-around competition will be Saturday night.
Courtney Kupets of Gaithersburg is the defending all-around winner. She will be challenged by Carly Patterson, the two-time American Cup winner; Tasha Schwikert, the 2001 and 2002 national champion; and Courtney McCool, a rising star.