Let's imagine Danell Leyva came into this weekend's U.S. Gymnastics Trials in San Jose with a checklist.
Perform at a high level? Check.
Take the all-around title back from budding rival John Orozco? Check.
Make the Olympic team? Check.
Head to London with a full head of steam? Half-check. Check-minus. Or whatever your grade-school teacher used to express small measures of disapproval.
Danell Leyva accomplished all he could have set out to accomplish at this pressure-packed meet. But because of injuries to his two main rivals, he will not leave this meet fulfilled.
At least he shouldn't.
What the checklist won't tell you is that Sam Mikulak, the all-around leader after Day 1, couldn't compete on Day 2 because of a left ankle injury.
And the checklist won't tell you that Leyva's main rival, John Orozco, suffered some sort of undisclosed finger/arm injury during the final rotation, opening the door for Leyva to take first place. According to our own Ian Hanford, Orozco told NBC reporters that he couldn't feel his arms after the routine.
I mention this not to disparage Leyva. Within the limits of what he could control, he was good this weekend—even brilliant at moments. His 15.85 on parallel bars in the final rotation was a beautiful bit of gymnastics.
But the circumstances make it difficult for us to use Leyva's San Jose performance as a gauge for his London.
And he can thank his chief competitors for that. Though they challenged him, scared him and even outclassed him at times, they never truly tested the 20-year-old Miamian. They never forced him to the brink and demanded his best.
Someone in London will, and when they do we'll learn more about Danell Leyva—more than we know from World Championships or Nationals or Trials.
Until then, Leyva must remain hungry. He must train and live with the notion that he hasn't proved anything yet.
If he thinks he has, London awaits with a rude awakening.
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