After falling to 19th following the first two of the competition’s six mandatory events, Leyva was spectacular on his last two — the parallel bars and horizontal bar — to make up ground as favorites fell around him.
He was fearless on the horizontal bar, performing spectacular release moves and letting out an enormous roar and pumping his fists as chants of “USA!” “USA!” rang out after sticking his landing. And he erupted again when his score on the apparatus — 15.700 — was posted.
The gold medal went to Kohei Uchimora of Japan (92.690 points), a three-time world all-around champion. Marcel Ngyuen of Germany won silver (91.031). Leyva’s bronze-medal score was 90.698.
Fellow American John Orozco, 19, of the Bronx, salvaged eighth (89.331) after initially being dead last among the 24 competitors at North Greenwich Arena.
Kazuhito Tanaka of Japan was well positioned for silver but fell off the pommel horse, his final routine, to earn a devastating 13.433.
It was the first Olympics for both Leyva and Orozco, who were seeking to become the first American to claim the coveted Olympic men’s all-around title since Paul Hamm did so at the 2004 Athens Games.
They qualified first and second for the individual competition, indicating they were serious threats. But they were undone by the same inconsistency that bedeviled the U.S. men en route a fifth-place finish in the team competition.
Still, they gained considerable ground on their final two events, the parallel bars and horizontal bar.
Leyva, the 2011 U.S. all-around champion, considers both events to be strengths. And he scored an impressive 15.833 on the parallel bars, while Orozco followed with 15.266. That moved them up to sixth and 10th, respectively.
Then came the horizontal bar, Orozco’s favorite. He got 14.966.
If Leyva and Orozco can shore up their deficiencies on the pommel horse, a perennial weakness of U.S. men, and become more consistent performers, they may well be rewarded more handsomely at the 2016 Olympics.