Gymnast Danell Leyva Confident About Olympic Gold
Gymnast Danell Leyva, 20, can already boast a star-studded career. Despite winning several championships and having a resume that would make other accomplished athletes jealous, Leyva claims there is still one item missing from his repertoire: an Olympic gold medal. After qualifying in the Olympic trials earlier this month, the Cuban-born gymnast has his sights set on London as he prepares to make his dreams come true this summer. “It’s a huge relief to know officially that I’m on the team and it’s a huge weight off of my shoulders,” Leyva told NBC Miami.
But Leyva’s road to success has not been easy. Leyva was born with asthma, abnormally long arms, flat feet and attention deficit disorder. Most would doubt his ability to even practice a sport like gymnastics. "At first, my mom didn’t want me to be a gymnast because I wasn’t [in] the right condition,” Leyva told the network. “My arms were too long, my butt was too big, and the biggest thing was that I didn't really pay attention to anything,” he explained.
Leyva managed to overcome the odds thanks to his passion and willingness to compete. His Olympian journey started at a young age, when he and his family moved to Miami, Florida. His soon-to-be stepfather brought home a videotape of routines that he and Levya’s mother – both gymnasts – had once performed together. Leyva was instantly hooked. "After the video finished I told them 'I don't know what this is, but I want to be like that.' I was about 2 1/2 years old," the Miami gymnast told Fox News.
Leyva got his first real taste of competition at the 2006 Winter Cup. In the Junior Division of the U.S. National Championships, Leyva took home the gold for floor exercise and horizontal bar, and tied for silver on the parallel bars. In 2008, he competed in the Junior National Championships, winning the all-around, parallel bars and pommel horse. As a member of the Pacific Rim Championship team, he helped the U.S. win team gold and gold in all-around. Leyva then moved on to the senior division in 2009, becoming the U.S. National Team's youngest member. At the 2011 National Championships, Leyva beat out the reigning national champion and world bronze medalist Jonathan Horton, winning his first all-around in the U.S. National Championship at the senior level.
Leyva has had a solid start to this year as well, snatching several medals at the Winter Cup, finishing in first place at the American Cup in New York City, and taking home the all-around silver at the U.S. Visa National Championships. Fresh out of qualifying at the Olympic trials, Leyva has every right to feel confident about his chances at the 2012 London Summer Games. "I don't want to be a cocky person but at the same time if you have a goal you always have to see yourself accomplishing that goal, otherwise you're not gonna make it,” Leyva said. "One of my biggest goals since becoming a gymnast was to be an Olympic champion."
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