Olympic Gymnastics 2012: Why Danell Leyva Is the Lone American Medal Contender

Ryan HeidrichCorrespondent IIAugust 1, 2012

LONDON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 01:  Danell Leyva of the United States competes on the rings 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 Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The American Men’s Gymnastics team has been embarrassed so far in London. Following their fifth place finish in the team finals that was marred with incredibly lackluster Gymnastics, I am surprised that NBC did not further tape delay it. To make matters worse, they were completely blown out of the water by the American Women, who took home the gold medal in dominating fashion.

The great thing about sports is no matter how badly you perform, you can always redeem yourself in some way. For the American men's team, they are counting on John Orozco and Danell Leyva to show the world that the US can compete under pressure. Orozco and Leyva will be competing in the individual all-around. The Americans are in danger of failing to win a medal in London, which would be extremely disappointing considering the high hopes that surrounded this team.

While Orozco is a great story and a fantastic gymnast, and the Americans have a boatload of talent on the team, it is obvious that Leyva is really the only hope the Americans have when it comes to medaling. Leyva will compete in the all-around competition, which gives him another chance to perform in the spotlight before the individual events begin.

Leyva has shown that he is the American’s best and his competition resume is loaded with medals. He has won 10 gold medals in the Pacific Rim Championships, the World Championships and the United States National Championship.  He is a decorated athlete who thrives for glory. 

He recently told USA Today that he would use the disappointing team results for motivation.


"We're just going to use this as fuel," Leyva said. "It's easy to sit back and mope and be depressed about what happened. We were all sad we weren't able to do what we wanted to do, but we're not done yet. We just need to shake it off and go onto the next thing."

At just 20 years old, Leyva is already a great leader for this Olympic squad. He will show them how to rebound after failing in his performance in the all-around competition.  It would be surprising if Leyva falters again; he is too talented and too experienced for that to happen.

Leyva posted the highest score of any competitor with a score of 91.265.  With Japan’s, Kohei Ichimura, showing signs that he is not in his best form, it leaves a door cracked open. That door will be blown open by Leyva.

Leyva struggled on the vault in team competition, which is something that he needs to improve if he wants to win a medal in the all-around event.  Leyva is scheduled to take to the vault in his second event, allowing him time to calm his nerves before the event. He will start on the parallel bars, which is an event that he should not struggle in.

Leyva is solid in every event, which really translates well to the all around competition; he does not have a glaring weakness, meaning he won’t drop big points in any event. 

Not only is Leyva going to make a run at a medal in the individual all-around, but he will contend in the individual events as well. With the exception of Jonathan Horton (horizontal bar) and possibly Sam Mikulak (Vault), Leyva is truly the only legitimate threat to win a medal in London.

If the pressure from the disappointment of the team event isn’t enough, knowing that he is the only real threat to medal for his country will be looming over Leyva.

Leyva is too talented and too experienced to fold under pressure. This time, when all the lights are on him, he will shine bright. The US team has so much to prove and Leyva will show the world that they are as talented as speculated before the games. He is mature enough to stare adversity in the eyes and overcome anything that is in his way, which is something that cannot be said about his fellow teammates. That is why Danell Leyva is the only true American Gymnast capable of winning a medal.