U.S. gymnasts Leyva and Orozco seek redemption

By Liz Clarke

Redemption is a powerful motivator.

And that’s what Americans Danell Leyva and John Orozco are seeking today, when they take on 22 of the world’s best gymnasts for the coveted all-around Olympic gold at North Greenwich Arena after woefully under-performing in Monday’s team final.

Danell Leyva of the U.S. sits as he waits in between events. (Dylan Martinez/AP)

Only one American man — Paul Hamm at the 2004 Athens Games — has won the individual all-around gold.

Lleyva, 20, and Orozco, 19, earned the right to contend for the title by posting the highest scores of the five-man American team during qualifications. Leyva, in fact, was the top qualifier overall, edging Russia’s David Belyavskiy by 0.433 points.

But Monday, when the U.S. squad needed their best to back up their qualifying performances in the team final, both were sloppy instead.

Competing in three of the six team events for the U.S., Leyva paced the Americans on parallel bars but had a disastrous pommel horse routine, falling off the apparatus midway through. And Orozco was the lowest-scoring American in four of the events in which he competed, following Leyva with an even worse pommel horse routine. Orozco scored less than 15.000 points on three of his five events.

Largely as a result, the U.S. men, who had been favored to win gold, were dead last after three events and ultimately shut out of the medals entirely, finishing a distant fifth.

Afterward, both seemed a bit bewildered and even blithe about their poor showing, chalking it up to “a bad day,” as if days like the Olympic team final come along routinely.

Perhaps Wednesday will be a different, and better, day for the first-time Olympians.

Look for their toughest competition to come from Belyavskiy, who’s attempting to become Russia’s first individual all-around champion since 2000; Germany’s Fabian Hambuchen, a three-time Olympian; and Japan’s Kohei Uchimura, a three-time all-around world champion who has been prone to falling here at the London Games.

Leyva and Orozco will compete in the same six-man grouping today, tackling the six compulsory apparatus in the following order: floor, pommel horse, rings, vault, parallel bars and high bar.