Talk about a colossal comeback… Following a shaky start in the first half of the men’s gymnastics all-around competition, American Danell Leyva stormed back to claim the bronze medal at the 2012 London Games.
The 20-year-old Cuban American gymnast, who appears completamente desnudo in ESPN‘s fourth annual “The Body Issue,” was always considered a strong candidate to win an all-around medal at the 2012 Olympic Games. After all, he’d earned the highest qualifying score of the finalists during the team competition.
But Leyva stumbled in his second routine, the pommel horse, and appeared to be totally out of the competition halfway through the competition. After three of his six routines, Leyva was tied for 17th place.
But Leyva roared back to life on his fifth event, the parallel bars, where the Cuban-born gymnast showed why he’s the defending world champion in that event. He hit his routine and earned a 15.833, putting him in sixth place in the final rotation, less than a point behind eventual silver medalist Marcel Nguyen of Germany.
Leyva then completed his miraculous comeback with an inspired routine on the high bar. He nailed each release; and he topped off a stellar routine with a landing that had just a small step and pumped his fists. Leyva didn’t need the scoreboard to tell him he’d turned the beat around to end the day as the first Latino Olympic men’s all-around medalist.
“It was so much fun,” Leyva said of his final routine, which scored a night’s best score of 15.700 in the routine. “I didn’t think about anything else but the fun.”
Kohei Uchimura of Japan, the three-time defending world champion, earned the gold with a final score of 92.690 and Nguyen was the surprise silver medalist with a total of 91.031. Leyva had 90.698 points.
Leyva had praise for the 23-year-old Uchimura and a prediction.
“If I spoke Japanese,” said Leyva, “I would tell him that he is the best gymnast that ever lived. So far. I’m going to keep working to beat him.”
Leyva also said he hoped Uchimura sticks around for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro because, Leyva said, “I want to beat him.”
Meanwhile, Leyva’s teammate John Orozco, who beat Leyva to win the U.S. Men’s Gymnastics Championships in June, finished in 8th place. The 19-year-old Puerto Rican gymnast ended the night with a score of 89.331.