Then came the injuries. Paul broke his right ankle before the 2001 worlds, a setback that led to surgery and the insertion of a permanent screw. He sprained his left shoulder and stretched ligaments near his clavicle while performing on the rings, injuries that still prevent him from doing a simple front giant, a move he learned at 13. Morgan fared worse, suffering nerve damage in his left shoulder from a 2001 fall onto the parallel bars. His left arm was basically numb for four months, and he was on the verge of having career-ending surgery when he began to get feeling back. Still, the muscles in his arm had atrophied irreparably. "It's maybe 70 percent of what it was," says Morgan, who, physically unable to be an all-arounder, has become a specialist in the floor exercise, pommel horse and vault.
Last December the twins left longtime coach Stacy Maloney and stopped training in Wisconsin, partly because they wanted to train at Ohio State with Wilson and national team member Raj Bhavsar. "It's been a great change," says Morgan. "Having teammates in the gym helps push you, and you push them, and the whole group gets better."
The four athletes are guided by three coaches: Avery, Arnold Kvetenadze, a former coach of the Soviet national team, and Doug Stibel, a former member of the U.S. team. One change they've made in Paul's program is to simplify his high bar routine, reducing the number of his release moves from five to three. "The difficulty is still 10.0, but he's given up some risk," says Avery. "The old routine he'd hit maybe 75 percent of the time. Now it's 100 percent. Paul doesn't waste energy. Efficient. That's the word for the way he trains, so his body doesn't wear down as much as others'. That's the consistency you need to be the last guy up."
Cool. Consistent. Focused. Efficient. Those terms describe a great gymnast—one who should end up on the medals podium, even if he doesn't push the pixies out of prime time.