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SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Danell Leyva and John Orozco are an unlikely pair to be leading U.S. gymnastics: Both are young (Leyva is 20; Orozco is 19) and fantastic on parallel bars and high bar.
But the similarities end there. Leyva is eccentric, putting a lucky towel over his head in between events to keep him focused, while Orozco comes off as the friendly kid next door who can't quite believe he was the 2012 national champion.
|Gymnast Danell Leyva, left, and his stepfather, Yin Alvarez, appeared thrilled with Leyva's performance on the horizontal bar Saturday.|
The duo earned the two automatic berths onto the Olympic team, as expected, Saturday at the 2012 Olympic trials. They pushed each other throughout the night, with Orozco leading going into the final event but effectively handing it to Leyva when a hand cramp forced Orozco to fight through a subpar parallel bars routine.
While Leyva said he "very badly" wanted to win, the final results aren't all that important. Both are heading to London, along with three more team members and up to three alternates, who will be announced Sunday around 10 a.m.
Here's who likely will make the squad.
Sam Mikulak: Mikulak had a breakout meet Thursday, scoring the highest total of any competitor -- ahead of Orozco and Leyva. But he slightly sprained his ankle on vault that day, and though he wanted to grit it out on Saturday his coaches advised him not to. He competed only on pommel horse, the easiest on his ankle and a weak event for the U.S. team. After sitting out four rotations, he gamely hit a clean routine, ranking fifth overall on that event.
Even with one score Saturday, Mikulak has shown the committee enough great competitions lately that he has proven his worth for a team spot. He wasn't convinced, though.
"Thank god I was killing my sets in the past and I did everything I could to get where I'm at now. And I'm happy with every performance I've had," he said. "I'm not sitting easy, though."
Jonathan Horton: The only 2008 Olympian at the trials, Horton had a solid Saturday overall. He missed a combination on high bar but caught the release (a full-twisting double layout over the bar) he crashed on Day 1. He had a disappointing error on floor, his last event, that soured his night and made him nervous about his team chances. "I feel like I'm one of those scores that's needed on floor, and I think that final impression is everything," he said. "On my last routine, I wasn't very good."
Still, Horton had the top score overall on rings and is the 2008 Olympic silver medalist on high bar. It's doubtful the selection committee will leave someone with his experience and potential off the team.
Jake Dalton: The University of Oklahoma gymnast is likely to earn the final of the three team spots remaining. Dalton excels on floor and vault, leading the field on both of those events, which happen to be weaker scores for Leyva and Orozco.
"On floor and vault, I did everything I could and I hope it was enough. It was a great competition and a lot of good guys," Dalton said.
Steven Legendre: Legendre is Dalton's Oklahoma teammate, and with the same strengths there isn't room for both on the team. Dalton had steadier scores throughout the trials, while Legendre was more hit and miss, so Legendre may end up an alternate. Even Legendre agreed, saying, "I think Jake Dalton has proven himself as being unbelievably consistent -- I think the guy missed one routine throughout this entire process. If I've made a case for myself, Jake's made a case for himself or even more."
Alex Naddour: In 2011, Naddour made the world team because of his exceptional pommel horse work. He placed first overall on that event in San Jose but isn't higher than eighth on any other apparatus, so an alternate spot is a more realistic scenario. "I've never missed a pommel horse set my whole life. ... I think I've done enough to be an alternate or be on the team," Naddour said.
Chris Brooks: Brooks could be another alternate, with top five finishes on four of the events. He had some big misses throughout, however, and was frustrated overall by his trials competition. "After all of the hard work, knowing I was totally ready, and having a rough day ... I started to think, 'Did I lose my edge? Did I forget how to compete?'" Brooks said.
Though he has shown he can compete -- he was a world team member in 2010 -- his rocky competition has probably relegated him to alternate status at best.