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John Orozco: Is the Fighter Still an Inspirational Story?

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  John Orozco of the United States looks on after competing on the pommel horse in the Artistic Gymnastics Men's Individual All-Around final on Day 5 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena on August 1, 2012 in London, England.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Matt FitzgeraldCorrespondent IIIAugust 1, 2012

On a day where redemption seemed possible for John Orozco, it was fitting that his undoing came at the hands of arguably the most grueling apparatus in artistic gymnastics.

Disaster struck again for the American on the pommel horse when he got stuck in preparation to dismount, saddling himself with a score of 12.566. From there, he had an insurmountable deficit as he sat in last place.

After resting his head in his hands and fighting tears, Orozco gathered himself and was undeterred for the rest of the all-around competition.

The question is, after being overshadowed by teammate and bronze medalist Danell Leyva, is Orozco's story still inspirational?

The answer, if based purely on results in London, would probably be no. What should be more important are the odds Orozco overcame just to get there.

His upbringing in the Bronx has been well covered, but nothing could prepare the 19-year-old for the pressure and adversity he's faced after a poor showing in London.

Health was a huge factor in Orozco's life outside of the gym, but his own career was briefly derailed in 2010 due to injury. The fact that Orozco clawed his way back to Olympic form from a torn Achilles is amazing.

What is unique about Orozco is that he didn't find his sanctuary from a rough childhood background shooting hoops or chucking a baseball around. He found it in a gym.

Whether other kids will follow suit remains to be seen, but it's easy to be empathetic toward Orozco, and it's easy to be happy for his accolades to date.

Prior to his 2010 injury, Orozco was flying through the junior ranks, winning nearly every individual event at the junior U.S. National Championships.

With the opportunity to go to prestigious universities on a gymnastics scholarship, Orozco made the choice to fully dedicate himself to train for the Olympics. It certainly paid off, and Orozco earned well-deserved praise entering the 2012 Games.

According to Kelly Whiteside of the USA Today, this American men's gymnastics squad was the country's deepest since 1984. Orozco figured to be a key cog in the team's success, but wound up being the primary scapegoat.

It's no doubt crushing to be disappointed in oneself after years of training and literally falling flat, and Orozco will have as tough of a road as anyone from the London team to battle back.

Orozco didn't exactly display what would traditionally be labeled a winning attitude after Monday's mishap.

Rather, Orozco's brutally honest assessment of what happened was in many ways refreshing (also from Whiteside's article):

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.

What can aspiring youngsters learn from Orozco?

Nothing is guaranteed in the Olympics, but anything is possible through hard work. Having the right mindset is everything, and Orozco didn't mind being made fun of or what stood in his way as he pursued his Olympic dream.

Orozco could have been concerned about what people would say and packed it in in the all-around event. Instead, he decided to battle back from his depressing dismount off the horse to finish in eighth place overall.

This unimaginably tough experience is more likely to harden the Secret Ninja than devastate him to the point of disappearing. After all, he's still a teenager, and he handled defeat with class.

Leyva's explosive comeback to capture the bronze will be a huge storyline. His background is far from a picnic either, and he's just 20 years old.

In the future, though, the versatility of Orozco is the USA's best chance for all-around gold, and is arguably the greatest rags-to-Olympic-riches story in gymnastics history.

As Ernest Hemingway's famous quote goes, "Courage is grace under pressure."

The most significant lesson to take from Orozco's performance in London is not how he held up to pressure during his routines, but how he faced the music in an undaunted, candid way afterwards.

That is true courage, and that is a truly inspirational story.

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