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The Olympians - Danell Leyva

When most immigrants flee their native patrias for the US it’s often to provide better opportunities for their families and children. In the case of Olympic gymnast Danell Leyva, 21, who took home the US Men’s Gymnastics only medal from the 2012 games in London, his parents’ sacrifice would go on to make his family and adopted country proud.

Leyva, who was born in Matanzas, Cuba but raised in Miami, grew up around the mats and gym equipment that would come to define his professional life. His mother Maria Gonzalez and stepfather Yin Alvarez were both members of Cuba’s national gymnastics team and they opened and operated the gym where Leyva would spend his childhood. At just four-years-old Leyva began training for his gymnastics journey. But asthma, ADD and long arms aren’t the stuff that Olympic athletes are typically made of. "My mom didn't want me to be a gymnast because of my physical problems," Leyva told EFE in a recent report. "It was hard, I couldn't jump, but I had a lot of heart and passion for the sport." His grit and resolve would help him to overcome his physical issues. So much so that he is considered a master on the parallel bars and high bars.

Before chasing the gold medal in London, Leyva distinguished himself as a competitor globally. At just 17 he became the youngest member of the US National Senior team. In 2010, he won three gold medals at the Pacific Rim Championships and in 2011 he won gold in the parallel bars at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. Earning the bronze in London was an accomplishment but it’s not enough to keep the painter and aspiring musician from going for the gold in Brazil in 2016. Much like his Olympic colleague McKayla Maroney, one could say Leyva is not impressed. “It feels great, and I’m really really happy, but to be completely honest, I’m not entirely satisfied,” Leyva said to TeamUSA.org. “Bronze is beautiful but at the same time, the gold medal is my goal.”

Like any parent his stepfather, who is also his coach, is his most dedicated fan. During meets television cameras often capture Alvarez dancing, cheering or anticipating his son’s performance. But unlike other parents, Alvarez son is also America’s son and has the whole world watching and cheering as well.

 By Jessica Rodriguez