Best Known For
American gymnast Danell Leyva is best known for being the first Cuban-American and Miami resident to make it to the United States Olympic men's gymnastics team, and for winning a bronze medal at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
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Danell Leyva was born on October 30, 1991 in Matanzas, Cuba. His mother came to the United States shortly thereafter and met Leyva's stepfather. The two were both gymnasts who began training their son in the sport. Leyva went on to achieve Olympic status and participate in the 2012 Summer Olympic Games, where he won a bronze medal in the individual all-around competition.
Cuban-American gymnast Danell Johan Leyva was born on October 30, 1991 in Matanzas, Cuba, to father Johan Leyva and mother Maria Gonzalez. Leyva has never met his father, who now lives in Spain. He grew up in Miami, Florida, where his mother and stepfather, Yin Alvarez, opened a gym; both were Cuban defectors who had been members of Cuba's national gymnastics team throughout their adolescence.
Alvarez recognized in Leyva a spark when he was still a toddler, and was suffering from asthma attacks. "[He] saw a boy who loved to please people and sensed he might go to great lengths to do that," according to an August 1, 2012 article on ESPN's website.
Leyva proved his mother wrong. She feared that he did not have the right type of physique, nor the strength or coordination to become a gymnast, and had no intention of turning him on to gymnastics, according to an August 2, 2012 article in the Miami New Times. But when Leyva was about 4 years old, he and his stepfather convinced Leyva's mother to allow him to train in the sport.
Although his started out rather poorly, Leyva's "unrelenting spirit" led him to success. By the time he was in first grade, Leyva was fully committed to gymnastics. He competed at his first Winter Cup in 2006. From there, he went on to compete in the Junior Division of the U.S. National Championships, or the Visa Championships, and won first all-around, as well as gold on floor exercise and horizontal bar. He also tied for silver on parallel bars.
Parallel bars and horizontal bar are Leyva's specialties. He has his own signature move on the latter: Jam-dislocate-hop to undergrips.
At the 2008 Junior National Championships, Leyva won the all-around, high bar, parallel bars and pommel horse titles. He was the high bar champion at the 2008 Pan American Gymnastics Championships, and won gold in the all-around at the 2008 Pacific Rim Championships.
In 2009, Leyva became the youngest member of the U.S. national senior team, at age 17. He competed at the 2009, 2010 and 2011 World Artistic Gymnastics Championships. Leyva beat reigning national champion Jonathan Horton at the 2011 Visa Championships and came second behind John Orozco at the 2012 Visa Championships. He competed at the Olympic trials and made in onto the U.S. men's gymnastics team that would compete at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, along with John Orozco, Jonathan Horton, Sam Mikulak and Jake Dalton.
Leyva won the bronze medal in the individual all-around at the 2012 Summer Olympics. But having made it onto the U.S. team alone was a huge accomplishment for the young gymnast: He is the first Cuban-American and first person from Miami to make it onto the team.
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