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Flat on his back, not loving the view

August 6, 2008 |  8:25 am

Jonathan Horton heads down the runway.

BEIJING -- It was on his second tumbling pass and Jonathan Horton said he knew what was coming.

"Every now and then, on that pass, I'll punch the floor a little early," Horton said. "I know when it's happening. Instead of opening up and ending up on my neck, I'll slam on my back. I don't care if I look like an idiot. It's a safety thing."

Translated into non-gymnastics speak, Horton lost his footing and landed splat on his back, looking up at the ceiling of Beijing's National Indoor Stadium and thanking his lucky stars that he was seeing stars.

"So I got it out of the way now," Horton said. "It won't happen again."

Horton is no novice. He finished fourth in the all-around at the 2007 world championships and, with the loss of Paul Hamm, will be the leading U.S. candidate to qualify for the all-around competition next week.

He also is willing to take some chances. "Different guys bring different things," Horton said. "Some guys throw big tricks, some guys are elegant gymnasts, some guys are real consistent."

Horton is a big tricks kind of guy. "I plan on hitting the tricks too," he said. "I'm not landing on my back again."

Horton, Justin Spring and Morgan Hamm all had floor falls but that was OK, Horton said.

"I liked the floor," Horton said. "I thought it was really bouncy. I was having fun, doing what I love and I had a pretty hard landing on my back. That's why you come early, to adjust."

Hamm said the floor falls weren't a surprise. "Floor is one of those events where it seems to take longer to get acclimated. The floor just takes a little bit of time to get used to."

-- Diane Pucin

Photo: Jonathan Horton heads down the runway towards the vault during a practice session at Beijing's National Indoor Stadium on Wednesday. Credit: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images