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US gymnast Leyva earns bronze in men’s all-around

By Diane Pucin, Los Angeles Times –

LONDON — American Danell Leyva swung faster and faster around the horizontal bar, a piece of gymnastics equipment that can be a tease.

It seems so easy to whirl and twirl, to let it go and catch it again.

But it is also cruelly difficult, physically punishing and mentally imposing. Without the catch, there is just the splat, the thud, and the sympathetic “ohs” from the fans.

Leyva thought about none of that Wednesday. Performing his final of six routines on that bar on a day in which he had put himself way behind early, Leyva roared to the finish by earning the best scores of the night on his final two events and winning the bronze medal all-around.

As his father and coach Yin Alvarez twisted his body on the floor, expending almost as much energy as his son, Leyva took a small step on his high bar landing and pumped his fists. He didn’t need the scoreboard to tell him he had turned around what started out as a disastrous day and made it triumphant.

Kohei Uchimura of Japan, the three-time defending world champion, earned the gold with a final score of 92.690 and Marcel Nguyen from Germany was the surprise silver medalist with a total of 91.031. Leyva had 90.698 points. John Orozco of the Bronx finished eighth.

Even Uchimura, though, played it safe on the high bar, taking out a release move rather than risk the splat. Leyva did everything he could think of.

“It was so much fun,” Leyva said of his final routine, which scored a night’s best of 15.700 in the routine. “I didn’t think about anything else but the fun.”

Leyva, who had the highest qualifying score of the all-around finalists, botched his second routine, on the pommel horse, and seemed to be totally out of the competition even at the halfway point, after he had done three of his six routines, and was tied for 17th place.

But Leyva’s comeback roared to life on his fifth event, the parallel bars, where he tied for the best score in the finals with Nguyen, earning a 15.833 for his unwavering work. The comeback was completed with the nerveless swinging on that high bar.

Leyva, 20, had praise for the 23-year-old Uchimura and a prediction.

“If I spoke Japanese,” Leyva said, “I would tell him that he is the best gymnast that ever lived. So far. I’m going to keep working to beat him.”

Leyva also said he hoped Uchimura sticks around for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro because, Leyva said, “I want to beat him.”

And that’s Uchimura’s plan. “Rio is a vision I have in mind,” Uchimura said. “I want to challenge myself to the limit.”

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