The U.S. men’s gymnastic team proved it could contend for a gold through the qualifying round, and to do so, Danell Leyva will need a big performance.
However, the first-place finish does not mean much in the overall competition, seeing as the scores reset after qualifying.
That leaves eight teams competing for Olympic gold on Monday.
The U.S. team bested both the Russian and British teams, who finished in second and third, respectively.
China and Japan were both heavily favored to make a push for gold, but both teams had forgettable performances during qualifying. Both are looking to repeat their 2008 Olympic performance, yet Japan only finished fifth, while China finished in sixth.
The American squad will certainly need a repeat performance if they want to finish off what they started, and Leyva will be crucial to their success.
Leyva is the top all-around competitor through qualifying, and with the U.S. looking to claim gold for the first time since 1984, team success may rest on his shoulders.
With a strong performance in the final, Leyva could help the team bring back gold from the Games.
Leyva was simply unstoppable through the qualifying round.
Not only did he earn himself a spot in the men’s all-around final, but he will also be the anchor for the American team. He will compete in four of the six events and, most importantly, will be the team’s last competitor on the high bar.
Leyva will simply need to focus on his strengths during the final, which are most definitely the parallel and high bars.
He should be excited in the fact that he finished in first in qualifying with a shaky performance on the parallel bars. He finished 12th, with a score of 15.33.
If he can clean up his routine, he should have no problem placing near the top, which would be huge for the team’s score.
As for the high bar, Leyva finished third in qualifying, and he will need to replicate that performance during the final.
With Leyva on the top of his game, the U.S. team will be in position to compete for gold on Monday.
Japan features three-time world champion Kohei Uchimura, but he was simply forgettable during the qualifying round.
He fell twice during the opener, which certainly gave other teams breathing room as they distanced themselves from Japan.
Uchimura surely will turn in a stronger performance before the end of the Games, but Leyva has shown he can compete alongside top-tier opponents.
As for the Chinese team, who took home gold in the 2008 Beijing Games, they had a subpar performance due to errors during their routines.
China has the athletes to contend for gold, but the Americans must be ready to replicate their qualifying performance.
That likely begins and ends with Leyva, who will be tasked with going head-to-head with the top contenders in the world.
If Leyva can prove he can hang alongside the likes of Uchimura, then the U.S. will have a great chance of bringing home gold when the Games are finished.
Perhaps the biggest reason the US was able to distance themselves from their opposition was due to their precision.
They finished the first day without a fall, and they will likely need to maintain that pace moving forward.
That is especially true for the final round, as teams no longer have the luxury of dropping their lowest scores. Teams will compete with three gymnasts, and each score counts.
Even one fall can be costly in the final, and Leyva and the rest of the American team must be able to stick their landings.
With no major miscues after the first day, the U.S. team should feel confident yet uneasy heading toward the final.
They were blessed with a very clean day, while both the Chinese and Japanese teams had various blunders. Nonetheless, the qualifying round is over, and the U.S. should be focused on one thing: gold.
Regardless of the other teams in the event, the American squad will need to worry about only themselves on Monday. If their meticulousness carries on into the final, they should be on the fast track to bringing home the gold for the first time since 1984.