- Last Updated: 11:48 AM, July 1, 2012
- Posted: 2:23 AM, July 1, 2012
SAN JOSE, Calif. — Danell Leyva and his family had little besides hope and determination when they arrived from Cuba almost 20 years ago.
Last night, he stood in the center of the arena, a U.S. Olympian.
With his mother and stepfather by his side, Leyva completed his family’s incredible journey, beating John Orozco of The Bronx to win the Olympic trials and clinch an automatic spot on the men’s gymnastics team (Orozco also qualified). As Leyva climbed off the podium after his last event, his stepfather, Yin Alvarez, greeted him with a bow and Leyva picked him up in a bear hug.
“It’s big,” said Alvarez, who fled Cuba a year before Leyva. “It’s big because I wanted to be an Olympian, and [Leyva] represents me. And all Cuban immigrants who came to this country for a better life ...”
Leyva finished almost a point ahead of Orozco in an entertaining game of “Can you top this?” Because both finished in the top three in at least three events, both qualified for the Olympic team. The remaining three members will be chosen by committee and announced today.
Gymnastics has been Orozco’s ticket out of the rough Bronx neighborhood where his parents still live, and he has gone to bed every night the past 10 years imagining what it would be like to hear his name announced as an Olympian.
“Now it’s not a dream anymore,” he said. “Now it’s a memory.”
The rivalry between Leyva and Orozco has made both that much better, and they will be a potent 1-2 force in London, where the Americans believe they have the goods to make a legitimate run at the gold medal for the first time since 1984.
“These two guys don’t want to be Olympians,” Alvarez said, “they want to be Olympic champions.”Follow @NYPostsports