Symbols of Danell Leyva's past, present and future decorate his family's gym. There's a banner with the Olympic rings draped on the back wall, and an American flag hanging overhead. Also hanging from the ceiling is a Cuban flag, center left, a reminder of the country where the reigning U.S. gymnastics champion and his family fled from almost 20 years ago. (Alan Diaz/AP)

Now Leyva is a U.S. gymnastics champion and perhaps the nation’s greatest threat to win multiple medals this summer at the London Olympics.

As the Associated Press reported:

Coached by his stepfather, the 20-year-old helped the Americans to the bronze medal at the world championships last fall and then added a gold on parallel bars, the first world title by a U.S. man since 2003.
“I do have a lot of thanks and appreciation to give to the USA,” Leyva said. “I’m not from here originally and they’ve accepted me with such a heartwarming embrace. It’s great to be able to give back by representing them.”
Leyva was too young to remember Cuba, and he adapted to his new home so easily he actually forgot his Spanish one summer a few years after arriving. But his mother and stepfather’s memories of their homeland are vivid, and he is keenly aware of how great their sacrifices have been — and how different his life might be had they not dared to leave.

Read the full story here.

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