In the run up to the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, which are now finally here, the Women’s US Gymnastic team has received a huge amount of attention. And not just from the US media either. The ladies are considered hot favorites to scoop up the golds, especially 19 year old ‘supergirl’ Simone Biles and so the whole world has been watching.
But what of the Men’s US Gymnastic team? Four years ago in London they too went in as hot favorites, but then failed to make an impact, finishing in a disappointing fifth place overall.
This year the men claim things will be very different. They have been training far more intensely, have made a point of training together – which is not always the case for Olympic gymnasts – they have perfected more challenging routines and, they say, they are as coordinated and tight knit as any team could be. But who are the men hoping to bring home gold from Rio and shine as brightly as their female counterparts? Let’s take a look:
Although at 23 Sam is one of the younger members of the team, the fact that he would be named captain was something that many pundits called long before it became official after the Olympic Trials in July.
Rio is Sam’s second Olympics, and this year he is in far better shape than he was four years ago. Back in 2012 he was sidelined for five of the six events after suffering a sprained ankle on the first night of competition. And despite having torn his Achilles Heel back in 2015, he has been training hard enough to feel that he is in the best competitive shape of his career.
Danell wasn’t supposed to be going to Rio at all. The 24 year old lost his place on the team – a place he did occupy in 2012 – to John Orozco. However, shortly after the team was officially announced, Orozco re-injured a previously torn ACL and was forced to withdraw.
An Olympic medal winner – the bronze medal in the Individual All-Around – in London Leyva, who was born in Cuba but came to the US as a child when his gymnast mother defected by swimming across the Rio Grande, intends to make the most of this unexpected second chance.
Jacob Dalton’s year began with a new element on the parallel bars being named for him in the Men’s Gymnastics Code of Points. The move, a roll backwards with a half tuck to hang, now assures him some measure of professional immortality, but it’s Olympic gold he is far more interested in.
Like most of his teammates Dalton’s road to Rio has not been easy. A member of the 2012 team in London he was sidelined for much of 2015 with a shoulder injury but recovered well enough to put in impressive vault and bars performances at the Olympics trials that earned him a second shot at the ultimate prize.
Alex was named as an alternate on the 2012 London Olympic team but to his great disappointment was never called upon to compete. Four years of hard work later – and some very impressive performances in national and World Championships, especially on the Pommel Horse – and his passage to Rio was booked.
Cheering him on will be the newest member of his personal team, his six month old daughter Lilah, a little girl who may have gymnastics in her blood, as her mom is former US champion gymnast Holly Vise.
Chris was only an alternate in London, but this year he gets his chance to shine. At 29, this may be his last trip to the Olympics and he intends to make the most of it.
Chris’ challenge to himself is about more than medal glory though. As a child he was coached by his father Larry, a former gymnast himself. According to Chris, he sacrificed all kinds of things to help keep his son’s career alive and see him reach the Olympics. Sadly his father was killed in an automobile accident in 2008.
Where some might have crumbled though, Chris was determined to make his Dad proud and carried on, both through crippling grief and serious injury. So if you want to gymnast to really root for Chris is certainly one of them, as he sets out to make his – and his father’s – Olympic dreams come true.
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