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Avery: Family Focus Put U.S. on Podium
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Jonathan Horton and Raj Bhavsar congratulate Justin Spring after a stuck high bar routine in the team final in Beijing.
The U.S. men's connection as a family helped lead the team to bronze in Beijing, American coach Miles Avery told IG.

The team won bronze behind China and Japan in Tuesday's team final, despite losing two-time Olympians Paul Hamm and Morgan Hamm because of injuries. Raj Bhavsar replaced Paul Hamm on July 28, and Sasha Artemev replaced Morgan Hamm on Thursday.

"We talked so much from this team being put together. With Paul on it, with Morgan on it, from being family," Avery told IG. "We are a family, it's all about this family, and we took that out on the floor with us. Even I think Sasha in terms of how great he's been on the floor, he knows that he's not out there by himself. He knew no matter what, we love you, we've got your back unconditionally, and we just talked about that so much."

The U.S. men were second behind China after five rotations, but were in danger of losing a medal when ending on their weakest event, pommel horse. Team captain Kevin Tan fell, and Bhavsar struggled. That set up Artemev, who had not yet competed any other events. Artemev hit his routine for a 15.350 to lock up the bronze medal.

The medal is the first for an American men's team since the silver in Athens four years ago. The team finished an historic low of 13th at the 2006 Worlds, and moved up to fourth in 2007. The much publicized return of the Hamm brothers, who had taken a break following their second Olympics in 2004, was supposed to give the U.S. a better chance of returning to the podium.

The lineup change only intensified the team's desire for a medal, Avery said.

"I think they wanted to show people 'We can do something," he said. "When Paul and Morgan stepped away from competing for this team, I think everyone thought this team doesn't have a chance at a medal. These guys believed it. They knew we believed in it. Their families believed in it. They believed it and they wanted this so desperately."

Avery, the head coach at Ohio State, is the personal coach of the Hamms. Avery had offered to step down from his position as assistant coach of the U.S. team in Beijing, following Morgan's withdrawal Thursday. The team requested he stay, however.

"I certainly wanted to, for myself, to step down, but these guys said 'We want you on the floor," he said. "And that's why without, an athlete on the floor, I went out on the floor with these guys. They wanted me as a part of that family on the floor. And so I went out there with them and everything came to fruition. It was absolutely amazing."

Avery formerly coached Bhavsar, who attended Ohio State. Three other members of the team — Tan, Jonathan Horton and Justin Spring — competed in NCAA gymnastics, which has the same family-oriented focus the team had in Beijing, Avery said.

"I heard two of these guys, Jon and Kevin, say 'This feels like an NCAA Championship,'" Avery said. "It felt like that. And in terms of support of one another, that is how an NCAA team works, and these guys brought that to this Olympics."

While the U.S. men didn't have the difficulty of the Chinese or Japanese gymnasts, they competed confidently and coolly while Germany, Korea and Russia erred. The American gymnasts looked like they were having fun, and Avery said that was the result of its focus on team support.

"We wanted to put it all in the gymnastics, in the performance and not look at the result," he said. "Just everyone's got everyone's back, and that's the only thing we were thinking about on the floor."

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