At the same time, a young woman in Wayne, N.J. watched the Olympics with her family, closely following that intense competition into the wee hours of the night and thinking one thing.
"I thought my grandfather was watching over him," June Karpowich said. "My grandfather gave him some guidance from above."
That's because the most influential gymnast in American history, Karpowich's grandfather, Frank Cumiskey, had just died in Florida on August 4, just two weeks prior to Hamm's remarkable comeback and just a few days shy of his 92nd birthday.
"It's almost as if my grandfather guided Hamm home," Karpowich said.
What is even more remarkable is that Frank Cumiskey, who was one of the first true giants in American gymnastics, hailed from Hudson County and in particular, West New York.
It was almost forgotten that Cumiskey was born and raised in West New York, learning about gymnastics, then taking the sport to levels never before seen in American competition.
Albeit a year too late, Cumiskey was posthumously inducted into the Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame last Thursday, joining 15 other sports great with their place in local immortality. The 15th Annual Hudson County Sports Hall of Fame induction dinner was held at the Casino in the Park in Jersey City.
But none of the inductees Thursday had the resume of greatness that Cumiskey achieved during his outstanding athletic career.
Cumiskey was perhaps the most influential gymnast in the United States throughout the 1930s and 1940s and later became a prominent coach and official.
During his competitive days, Cumiskey won an unfathomable total of 24 national championships and was a member of three U. S. Olympic teams over a 16-year period. He undoubtedly would have been on five Olympic teams if World War II had not forced cancellation of the 1940 and 1944 Olympics.
That idea alone is remarkable. But Cumiskey's ledger of excellence continued.
More to come
Cumiskey began competition as a student at New York University and was a member of the Olympic team that won a silver medal for combined exercises in 1932, when he finished sixth in the pommel horse (now known as the side horse).
He won national championships in the all-around in 1934, 1936, 1945, 1946, and 1947; in the pommel horse in 1932, 1936, 1937, 1944, 1945, and 1947 (a record that still stands); in the horizontal bars in 1934, 1936, 1944, 1945, 1946, and 1948; in the parallel bars in 1944 and 1945; in the floor exercise in 1935; and in vaulting in 1945.
Cumiskey was not only a competitor in the 1948 Olympics, he served as team manager and was given the honor of accompanying the color guard as part of the opening ceremonies.
After retiring from competition, Cumiskey was the long-time coach of the Swiss Turners of Hudson County, guiding that historic team to 17 national team titles.
Cumiskey was also active in the administration of the sport as a judge and served as technical director of the U.S. Gymnastics Federation and technical director and president of the National Gymnastics Judges Association. In addition to a manual for judges, Cumiskey was an accomplished author and wrote two books, The History of Gymnastics and Who's Who in Gymnastics.
Cumiskey was the first honoree of the United States Gymnastic Hall of Fame in 1959 and the Hall of Fame judge's award still bears his name.
In 2000, Sports Illustrated named Cumiskey among the top 50 greatest sports figures to ever come out of New Jersey, ranking Cumiskey No. 33 all-time among athletes in the Garden State, ahead of Milt Campbell, the 1956 Olympic decathlon champion, former Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne of the Giants, and Union City native Tommy Heinsohn, who was an All-Star player and coach for the Boston Celtics.
"When my grandfather heard he was No. 33, he wanted to know more about the 32 who were ahead of him," said Karpowich, who attended the induction ceremonies and accepted the award in her grandfather's memory. Her mother, Clara Schnackenberg (Cumiskey's daughter), was in attendance as well.
Most of the inductees were blown away when they learned of Cumiskey's accomplishments.
"Listening to what that Olympian did was truly astounding," said Jack Rodgers, a fellow inductee who has been the long-time girls' basketball coach at Harrison High School. "It makes you put what you did as a coach in proper perspective."
"I hadn't heard of the man, but his achievements were truly remarkable," said fellow inductee Stan Fryczynski of Secaucus High School.
Besides the late Cumiskey and Rodgers and Fryczynski, others to get inducted included former Jersey City State and Montclair State basketball coach Ollie Gelston, a Jersey City native, world record holding track star Larry Ross of Jersey City, Kearny track coach and former athletic director Jim Cifelli, Marist girls' basketball coach Bill DeFazio, County Prep baseball coach Mike Zadroga, and Bayonne High School swim coach Thomas Wojslawowicz.
Also gaining induction were former Queen of Peace, Harrison and Kearny football coach Ralph Borgess, former St. Joseph of the Palisades and Notre Dame grid standout Tom Liggio (a North Bergen native and the current Hudson County freeholder), former Hoboken grid standout Bobby Lisa, and former Union Hill and Assumption College basketball star Eric Inauen, who is currently a deputy fire chief for the North Hudson Regional Fire & Rescue.
Jerry Meyers, who has been the president of the Lincoln Park Little League in Jersey City for the last 30 years, is the 2005 recipient of the Marty Seglio Community Service Award, given in memory of the late St. Joseph of the Palisades athletic director who constantly gave of his time to help athletes.