Awed American Leyva gets gymnastics bronze

  • Article by: LINDA ROBERTSON , Miami Herald
  • Updated: August 2, 2012 - 12:09 PM

There was no catching Japan's all-around ace, but Danell Leyva rallied and won bronze for the U.S.

LONDON - When Danell Leyva flubbed his handstand dismount from pommel horse Wednesday, his chances of winning a medal in the Olympic all-around gymnastics final seemed to have hit the mat.

But Leyva didn't panic. He knew his two strongest events were yet to come. He methodically scaled the leaderboard, from 17th to 11th to sixth.

On horizontal bar, his final apparatus, he wowed the crowd and the judges with his high-flying, high-risk routine and earned the top score of the evening, a 15.700.

As he punched the air and his stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez jumped up and down in a frenzy of excitement, the scoreboard confirmed that Leyva had snatched the bronze medal, the first for the U.S. in men's all-around since Paul Hamm won in 2004.

His performance also helped make up for a disappointing fifth-place finish in the team competition Monday.

"This was redemption for the whole team," Leyva said. "I'd like to dedicate my medal to my coach, my mom, my grandparents, my teammates and everyone back in Miami.

"But I'm not satisfied with bronze. I'll come back in 2016 looking for gold."

No one was good enough to displace three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura of Japan. The 5-3 "Uchi" was the only gymnast to score at least 15 points on each apparatus, and his total of 92.690 beat Germany's Marcel Nguyen by a substantial 1.659-point margin.

"If I spoke Japanese, I'd tell him he is the best gymnast who has ever lived -- for now," Leyva said. "I was a little upset he wasn't in my rotation because he motivates everybody. I love competing with him. He's a beautiful gymnast."

Leyva, 20, who lives in Homestead, Fla., and trains at his family's gym, scored 90.698 points. Leyva scored highest on his last three events, vault, parallel bars and horizontal bar. His best score of 15.833 was on parallel bars.

Leyva soared through a flawless horizontal bar routine, adding touches of flair to difficult tricks. Spectators gasped at the height when he swung off the bar and when he caught it by his fingertips on the way down.

Leyva dismounted smoothly, taking one tiny step.

Alvarez said he didn't doubt Leyva's ability to get onto the medal podium, even after the lousy 13.5 score on pommel horse.

"It's like my team is in the ninth inning, the other team has 11 runs and we have zero and two outs, and everyone is leaving the stadium," Alvarez said. "But I think we going to win. That's how me and Dani think."

His mother, Maruia Alvarez, watching from the stands with U.S. athletes and the Colombian gymnast she coaches, kept willing Leyva to relax.

"He gets so mad -- I saw his face, like a baby, after horse," she said. "But his P bars was amazing. Dani is like that -- when he makes a mistake, he turns the page."

While Leyva gathered momentum, the competition faltered. Japan's Kasuhito Tanaka, who had been holding second place, fell on his last two events. Russia's David Belyavskiy scored 14.766 on his cautious high bar routine and stepped out of bounds twice on floor. Leyva's teammate John Orozco messed up on horse and finished eighth. Germany's Fabian Hambuchen fell on vault and high bar. Even Uchimura erred, putting his hands down on a landing on floor, but he was so comfortably in the lead it didn't matter.


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