Danell Leyva will compete in his second Olympics after all…
The Cuban-American gymnast, a Bronze Medal winner in the 2012 London Olympics in the Men’s All Around, will replace John Orozco at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
Orozco tore the anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus in his left knee during training this week and will not compete in Brazil next month.
Orozco, a star four years ago when he won the national championship and qualified for the Olympic all-around finals, injured the same knee late in 2012. Orozco has also twice torn the Achilles tendon in his right leg during his career.
National team coordinator Kevin Mazeika called Orozco’s latest injury “unfortunate and heartbreaking.”
The injury is the latest in a series of personal and professional setbacks for Orozco, who also lost his mother, Damaris, in the spring of 2015.
Leyva, who appeared in his birthday suit in ESPN The Magazine’s Body Issue in 2012, was left off the five-man team going to the Rio Games by the USA Gymnastics selection committee.
He was edged out by Orozco, Chris Brooks and Alex Naddour, who had a higher combination of four scores from the U.S. championships and trials than Leyva, who competed with injuries at the national meet after being bitten on his hands and left leg while trying to break up a fight between his American bulldogs. Four-time national champion Sam Mikulak and Jake Dalton made the Olympic team with no debate.
Leyva finished 10th overall at trials and 16th at nationals earlier this month. He tied with one other gymnast for the highest score on parallel bars and horizontal bar and was confident he would be chosen on the strength of those routines and his record of accomplishment.
But the five-man committee surprised many by not choosing Leyva, who has a reputation as a clutch athlete. The bigger the stage, the better he loves to perform.
“We don’t know the reason and we’re a little sad, but they are making a big mistake,” said his coach and stepfather Yin Alvarez after the decision was revealed. “Dani is obviously the only guy who can bring them a medal under pressure. Without him, how are they going to win a team or all-around medal?”
But now he’ll get his chance to show the committee and the world just what he’s capable of in the clutch.