Youngest Athlete in 2012 Olympics: John Orozco and Danell Leyva Will Lead Team USA Back to Gold


Danell Leyva was born in Cuba. John Orozco was born in the Bronx, New York. Both gymnasts are Team USA’s best hope to achieve gold in the London 2012 Olympics after the Chinese and Japanese male gymnastics power houses relegated the Americans to the third place – and the bronze medal – at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Orozco is the 2012 Visa National Champion, and he trained at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, before traveling to London. His father worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation for 24 years – until he was forced to retire after suffering a stroke. From a very young age, Orozco was part of programs for socioeconomically disadvantaged children who nonetheless had the talent (and were willing to work hard) to excel.

And it worked; Orozco went on to win the Junior Visa U.S. National Championships (becoming the youngest male gymnast to qualify for the finals, and taking a place in the Junior National Team representing the USA in the Pan-American Games) before participating in a host of international tournaments that paved the way to where he is today.

Danell Leyva is the 2011 U.S. national all-around gold medalist, and the 2011 world champion on the parallel bars. He is a specialist on Parallel Bars and Horizontal Bar, having his own signature move (jam-dislocate-hop to under grips) on the latter. 

His stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez and mother, Maria Gonzalez were both members of Cuba's national gymnastics team. Gonzalez and Leyva defected to Miami when Leyva was a year old by swimming across the Rio Grande to the United States (while his team was competing in Mexico). 

Leyva became the youngest member of the U.S. national senior team at age 17, and won the gold medal on the horizontal bar and the silver medal on the parallel bars. He was chosen as one of 4 U.S. male gymnasts to compete at the 2009 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships in London. He qualified to the Horizontal Bar final where he placed 4th.

Both Orozco and Leyva, along with Jonathan Horton, Sam Mikulak, Jake Dalton, Alex Naddour, Steven Legendre and Chris Brooks (as alternates) will try to bring Team USA back to the top of the podium at the London 2012 Olympics men’s gymnastics competition.