Men's team gymnastics final (Photo from US Presswire)
By Kelly Whiteside, USA TODAY
LONDON - In trouble early, American Danell Leyva rallied over the final three events and snuck in for the bronze medal at the men's gymnastics all-around in the London Olympics.
It was a special moment for a team that flopped on Monday in the team finals and looked for all the world as if there would be no medal from either Leyva or John Orozco in the all-around on Wednesday.
But with a score of 15.7 on the very last event, Leyva earned his medal in dramatic fashion. Three-time world champ Kohei Uchimura of Japan won the gold. Marcel Nguyen of Germany won silver.
Leyva finished with 90.698, just ahead of Mykola Kuksenkov of the Ukraine, who was fourth at 90.432.
Orozco, with a disastrous pommel horse, finished eight with 89.331.
Each was nearly undone by the pommel. They had two of the lowest scores among the 24 competitors on pommel, Leyva 19th at 13.5 and Orozco 23rd at 12.566.
There is no event in gymnastics more difficult than the pommel horse, even though in comparison to thrills and spills of say the high bar, it's not a particularly dangerous. But it's the most psychologically taxing, requiring immense concentration and balance.
In the team final, U.S. men also fell out of medal contention after mistakes on pommel horse. The Americans finished fifth, two days after being first in qualifying. They were thought to be the deepest U.S. men's team since 1984, when the Americans last won the team gold.
Individual event finals run from Aug. 5-7, so there's still a shot for Leyva and Horton who will compete on bar. Jake Dalton will compete on floor and Sam Mikulak on vault.
After winning the bronze at the worlds - the U.S's first team medal at the event since 2003 - the Americans entered London with plenty of confidence. The gold was the goal.
Reality set in on the U.S.'s second rotation, the horse. After a shaky dismount, Orozco sat by the boards, hands together resting on his forehead. Tense and upset, even an encouraging word, a small shoulder massage from a U.S. coach, couldn't break his despondency.
Levya's horse was almost as rough as he stalled on his dismount. The lack of giddyup for both Americans on their dismounts put a medal out of reach. Nonetheless, they maintained their composure, particularly Leyva, who rallied to stand sixth going into the final rotation, the high bar.
Then when it mattered most, he turned in the performance that made him an Olympic medalist.