Second to Japan in preliminaries, U.S. on course for medal

Angered Wilson calls judging change `cheating'

Men's Gymnastics

Athens 2004

August 15, 2004|By Marlen Garcia | Marlen Garcia,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

ATHENS - Blaine Wilson used fiery words to express his disgust yesterday at Olympic Indoor Hall.

In the process, the three-time Olympic gymnast ignited a controversy on the first day of Olympic competition.

Wilson accused Japanese judge Sawao Kato and event technical director Adrian Stoica of cheating.

Kato, the head judge for high bar, and Stoica informed U.S. coaches Wednesday that a release move in three gymnasts' routines would be scored lower than in world championship meets the previous two years. The deduction would cost the gymnasts as much as two-tenths of a point.

Wilson and Jason Gatson altered their routines to include more difficulty, and the results were devastating for Wilson, who fell from the bar on his new release move and was visibly shaken. He later withdrew from pommel horse with dizziness.

"It's cheating," Wilson said repeatedly.

He finished the routine for a score of 8.862. Gatson struggled to a lesser extent and scored a 9.337.

Overall, the last-minute scrambling in routines had little effect on the U.S. team, which finished second in preliminaries behind Japan. The Japanese were impressive in scoring 232.134; the Americans scored 230.419. Preliminary-round scores do not count in the finals.

"We're right on track to get a medal," Morgan Hamm said.

The Chicago Tribune is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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