Danell Leyva began the 2012 Olympic Games in impressive fashion, leading the US men's gymnastics team to the top spot in qualifying. He also posted the highest score of anyone in the competition and had his sights set on two all-around gold medals.
The individual gold would be the first for an American man since Paul Hamm's controversial medal in the 2004 Olympics in Athens. As for the team gold, the US hasn't won one since the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.
Leyva had a chance to make these games truly historic for himself and for his country.
He did put up a solid performance in the individual all-around competition, landing a spot on the podium with a bronze medal. Becoming only the second man since 1984 to medal would usually be seen as a great accomplishment, but Leyva's achievement is overshadowed by his disappointing role in the team's collapse just two days earlier.
The final of the team competition started out well on the floor exercise, but things began to fall apart in the second rotation. Leyva slipped off the pommel horse and finished with a score of 13.400, 20th out of 24 competitors. John Orozco also scored poorly on the horse, and the US needed a flawless finish.
By the time Leyva's next event came up, the team was all but eliminated from medal contention. The reigning parallel bars world champion, Leyva finished tied for 10th in the event. His mediocre performance capped the finish to a historic collapse by the US.
Though the individual competition offers some redemption for Leyva, the decline in performance from qualifying to the team event leaves nothing but disappointment. In qualifying, Leyva scored a 14.866 on the pommel horse, and a score like that in the finals could have turned everything around for the US.
A great start would have calmed the nerves but, instead, the early hole caused the team to press and more mistakes were made. It was a team effort, and John Orozco added to the downfall, but Leyva's performance when it counted was nothing near the talent he showed in qualifying.
He will still go home with an all-around medal, but fans will always be wondering what could have been. Leyva will have to wait four years for a chance to redeem himself and bring gold to the men's team for the first time since 1984.
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