Hamm struggles in first meet in 4 years

EDDIE PELLS AP National Writer Published:

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- In his first competitive gymnastics meet in four years, Olympic champion Paul Hamm failed to make it out of the first round.

Hamm struggled at the Winter Cup Challenge on Thursday and didn't finish among the top 42, meaning he won't be asked back for Saturday night's finals.

It was a surprising development that could make the road back to the Olympics more difficult for the 2004 all-around gold medalist, who is competing a year after a major injury to his right shoulder.

He would need to earn one of three wildcard spots to make the 15-man U.S. national team whose members compete in international meets over the next few months. Regardless, as a three-time national titlist, Hamm will have a spot at nationals, which means there's still a path to the Olympic team open for him.