Rock and Gold

Think vampires are the only ones allergic to silver? Try Paul Hamm.

The famed gymnast exhibited Olympian-level lameness this summer, proving once and for all that poor sportsmanship can infect even the greatest talents. The Team USA superstar courted tons of controversy after refusing to give up his gold medal in the men's all-around competition -- a medal won only because the judges erred in rating the performance of South Korea's Yang Tae-Young. Hamm still would have walked with second place; he did, after all, give a world-class display of athletic agility.

But apparently a silver medal and the applause of the entire planet wasn't worth trading the gold for. When asked by Bruno Grandi, president of the International Gymnastic Federation, to surrender his medal to Yang as a show of good faith, Hamm huffily refused. Geez! With that kind of attitude, you'd almost think he was some kind of rock star.

Now the athlete will impersonate one, prancing to the beat of The 2004 Rock and Roll Gymnastics Championships Tour, Thursday at Loveland's Budweiser Events Center and Friday at the Pepsi Center in Denver. Olympic medalists and world champions such as Blaine Wilson, Shannon Miller, Dominique Moceanu, Tasha Schwikert, Chellsie Memmel, Hollie Vise and Hamm's own twin brother, Morgan, will twirl and tumble their way through two floor routines each. Then the hotties in the tight suits will try a few crossbred dance/gymnastics productions that let them flex their creative dexterity and derrires.

And in lieu of lukewarm mambo or stodgy classical music, the gymnasts will be backed by the hooky, thunderous beats of some of the recent past's hottest pop tracks, including Britney Spears's "Toxic," Lenny Kravitz's "Where Are We Runnin'?" and Outkast's "Hey Ya!"

As event choreographer Amy Gale says, "We've got a little bit of everything: Usher, Linkin Park, Christina Aguilera. There's pop, alternative, hip-hop. There's also a mix between lyrical music and more upbeat music. We've kind of covered the whole spectrum."

The tunes will be spun by a DJ, but the whole evening will be hosted in the flesh by the sizzling vocal phenomenon JoJo, a teenage prodigy of sorts who will croon her smash single "Leave (Get Out)" as well as a set of music from her chart-climbing debut disc. Although she's previously played such ultra-hip affairs as the 2000 Republican National Convention and the McDonald's 2001 Gospelfest, this will be the first real tour for the fast-rising young diva.

The show's emphasis, then, will be on gold records as much as on gold medals. But that doesn't mean the participants won't be feeling the heat of competition. A panel of as-yet-unnamed local celebrity judges will view and evaluate the routines according to showmanship and skill. Hopefully, these hometown officials will be a little better at counting to ten than the three Olympic judges who were suspended because of their blundering in the Hamm debacle.

Regardless of the controversy, there's no denying the talent that will be on display during the Championships Tour. After all, when will you ever get to witness the absurd majesty of Paul Hamm doing acrobatic re-enactments of fight scenes from The Matrix while Usher's "Yeah" booms in the background?

Take it straight from the mouth of JoJo herself: "Being able to perform with the Olympic athletes is an amazing opportunity. The marriage between great music and sport will make for an unbelievable show."

Even if you're forced to watch the star attraction Hamm it up.

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Jason Heller
Contact: Jason Heller

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