Danell Leyva (USA) reacts after competing on the parallel bars in the men’s individual all-around final during the 2012 London Olympic Games at North Greenwich Arena. (Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports)
By Steve Keating
Aug 1 (Reuters) – Americans are proving themselves to be masters of one of gymnastics’ toughest moves at the London Olympics – the comeback.
Sitting 17th at the halfway point of the competition after a fumble on his pommel horse routine, Danell Leyva’s chances of landing an all-around medal appeared about as bright as the gloomy London weather.
But the Cuban-born American flashed some Latin flair, posting top marks of the night in his final two events, the parallel bars and horizontal bar, to cap a breathtaking comeback and steal an unlikely bronze medal from Ukraine’s Mykola Kuksenkov.
“It was an incredible performance having that break on pommels, (he showed) amazing tenacity and stuck to it and came out with a bronze,” Kevin Mazeika, head coach of the U.S. men’s team, told reporters “Anytime you win an Olympic medal, they are hard to come by as we all know, it was a great job.”
The comeback has been part of the U.S. repertoire going back to the 2004 Athens Games when Paul Hamm nearly toppled on to the judges’ bench after botching his vault in the fourth rotation. He surged back from 12th to claim gold.
After suffering the personal heartache of failing to qualify for the all-around final, Jordyn Wieber bounced back on Tuesday to lead the U.S. to the team gold.
With the North Greenwich Arena still buzzing over the U.S. women’s dazzling display, Leyva and team mate John Orozco arrived seeking a little redemption of their own after bombing out in the team event.
“This medal is a little redemption from team finals,” said Leyva, who dedicated his bronze to his adoptive country. “This is for all the guys on the team who are my brothers. I love these guys.
“I always think about my own situation when I mess up.
“I got under my towel and got really mad and just took a whole lot of deep breaths and channelled some positive energy.”
Following a strong start on the floor, American medal hopes faded as both men botched their pommel horse routines tumbling down the leaderboard.
While Kohei Uchimura was underlining his credentials as the world’s best gymnast, running away with the gold, drama was unfolding behind the Japanese all-rounder as Leyva clawed his way back up the rankings.
With Uchimura already celebrating his title, Leyva, the last man left to compete on the horizontal bar, left the capacity crowd gasping with a jaw-dropping routine that landed him a thundering ovation and a spot on the podium.
“I needed to stick that dismount if I was going to get a medal, anything gold, silver, bronze,” said Leyva, who is coached by his stepfather.