If Danell Leyva weren’t doing gymnastics, he’d be a “fat kid at home who’s always in trouble.” And his favorite thing to eat is…”food.”
I’ve always admired the genuineness and honesty among the American men – they’re personable, articulate, and down-to-earth, which makes for great interviews.
Jonathan Horton made an interesting and very transparent point regarding the double-edged sword of “experience.” He acknowledged that experience can be a good thing because you know how to prepare for certain competitive situations and can draw confidence from that, but a bad thing because you become more aware of the pressure and anxiety that await you. I’ve always thought the exact same thing and have often noticed that new gymnastics “stars” are often at their best in their first breakout year, when they’re facing major competitive experiences for the first time. The innocence and naivety of the young, inexperienced competitors often serve to protect them from nerves, because they’re somewhat oblivious to the pressure they’re under. Later, as they mature, develop more intrinsic motivations, and begin to think more for themselves, they become much more aware of the stakes involved, the media hype, and the consequences of failing. As a result, nerves kick in more, and they begin to “think” more, rather than simply perform. Although I think this is true in other sports as well, I believe the nature of gymnastics allows competition nerves to have particularly dramatic effects. The balance, precision, split-second timing, and coordination of the entire body and mind required to perform such complex maneuvers all become so easily interrupted by adrenaline. I don’t know that I’ve ever heard an athlete put this dichotomy of competitive experience into words like Jonathan Horton did.
It sounds like the U.S. men had an excellent training camp earlier this month. It’s exciting to hear the passion and ambition in the voices of all three of these leaders for Team USA, who all dream of not only being in London, but of winning the Olympic team gold. Although it will certainly take an incredible team performance and perhaps some mistakes from the Chinese and Japanese for this to happen, with the 3-up-3-count format and the strength and depth of the U.S. men right now, it is as possible as it ever has been.
Shooting for Olympic gold and believing this can and will happen is exactly the mindset this American team needs to have. I bet that would be one amazing dinner plate for Danell Leyva that night if he and Team USA managed to pull it off.