Any momentum that the U.S. men's gymnastics team had built up with Saturday's impressive Olympic qualifying session came to a calamitous halt on Monday in London. John Orozco, the 2012 Visa National Champion and Olympic all-around medal hopeful, found himself at the center of an unexpected American slide into fifth place in team finals competiton.
Orozco's tears told the tale. Team USA's group quest for gold was over and it ended in devastating fashion.
China repeated as Olympic champion, followed by Japan and upstart Great Britain.
The 19-year-old Orozco, whose upbringing amid crime and poverty in The Bronx provided an inspiring narrative as the Olympics neared, landed on his backside after a misguided handspring on vault. With the U.S. clinging to fading hopes for a medal, Orozco's miscue might as well have been a death knell.
"It didn't go as planned today," Orozco told USA Today. "There was some pressure. I'd like to think it doesn't get to me but I guess it does because I didn't do as well as I hoped today."
As he walked away from the vault debacle, Orozco couldn't contain his emotions and teared up.
His flop on vault came directly after an extremely shaky performance on the pommel horse. He faltered twice in that event.
For Orozco, it was a far cry from his performance in Saturday's qualifying session. He placed fourth in the individual all-around, while Team USA topped all eight finalists with a score of 275.342.
Suddenly, Saturday seems like a distant reality.
The U.S. entered these Olympics with realistic hopes to win its first Olympic men's gymnastics team title since the 1984 Los Angeles Games. And although the group's failure to do so certainly doesn't fall squarely on the shoulders of Orozco, it was clear that he felt plenty of burden in the aftermath.
"After the vault, for me it was like: 'That's two routines I already destroyed.' I wasn't feeling great personally," an emotional Orozco told Reuters.
Monday was supposed to be an opportunity for Orozco to announce himself to the world as one of the catalysts who helped the Americans finally break through and reach that elusive gold. Many anticipated the U.S. team would at least match the bronze medal won at the 2008 Beijing Games.
Instead, Orozco and a talented young team must move on empty-handed. Fair or not, the reigning national champion is likely to be remembered as the poster child of what went wrong on the multicolored mats of North Greenwich Arena on Monday.
Orozco remains in contention for an individual all-around. He'll compete in the event final, along with teammate Danell Leyva.
Individual accomplishments are all that remains for the taking at the 2012 Olympics for a team that hoped to accomplish so much together.
"Right now it's over, I don't feel fantastic about it, but all I can do is look forward to the future," Orozco told Reuters.
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