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HAMM ABLE TO KEEP HIS OLYMPIC GOLD MEDAL

For weeks, gymnast Paul Hamm's Olympic gold medal sat in a drawer at his boyhood home in Wisconsin, carefully tucked inside a sock so it wouldn't be scratched or damaged. There was, after all, a chance he'd have to give it to someone else.

Now, two months after it was first draped around his neck, the gold medal is his -- finally and forever.

Sports' highest court rejected an appeal from a South Korean gymnast on Thursday, ruling that Hamm is the rightful champion in the men's all-around competition at the Athens Games. The verdict is final and cannot be appealed.

"It feels like it's mine now. If I were to damage it in any way, it wouldn't be going to anyone else. If I ruin it, it's mine to ruin," Hamm said. "Now I'll be able to put it in a safe place and leave it there."

And leave the whole mess behind him.

"There's been a lot of fighting for this medal," he said. "I think it'll mean that much more, that I'll be able to keep it for the rest of my life."

The decision by a three-judge panel from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, in Lausanne, Switzerland, ends a tussle that began when South Korea's Yang Tae-young claimed a scoring error had cost him the victory.

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