Danell Leyva is still basking in the glory of winning his first Olympic medal in the London games this summer.
The Cuban-American represented the United States in men’s gymnastics and earned a bronze medal in the Men’s All-Around gymnastics.
For the 20-year-old athlete, winning a medal meant a lot more than achieving a personal goal after years of hard work. The men’s gymnastics team was left extremely disappointed after a failing to recover from several errors made in the team finals competition.
"Our guys know that they're better than fifth place, and they're going to try to show that off through the rest of the competition," USA Gymnastics president Steve Penny told ESPN.
Leyva did it.
“As cliché as it sounds we really just had an ‘off’ day,” says Leyva of the team’s performance. “This medal is definitely redemption for that day. I felt like this wasn’t only for me and my coach and my family it was also for my team, also for the United States and for the Latin community.”
Proud of his Cuban heritage, Leyva said one of the exciting parts of being in London was getting to meet the athletes playing for the country of his “roots.” The athletes Cuban roots as well as gymnastics background run quite deep, both his mother as well as step-father were gymnasts in Cuba, according to USA Gymnastics.
“He was a great gymnast,” tells Leyva of his step-father and coach Yin Salazar who was a champion as part of the Cuban national gymnastics’ team. He went on to join the circus in Mexico before making his way across the border to the United States “for a better life,” as tells his step-son. “He swam the Rio Grande in January in freezing cold water and naked!”
The duo were fan favorites these Olympics as cameras focused on Salazar’s encouraging cheers as he watched his step-son perform what they practiced for so long.
A bronze medal was not the only reward for being a skilled Olympic athlete, in the likes of Ryan Lochte and Michael Phelps, Leyva has attainted quite a bit of fame in the entertainment industry. The gymnast was featured on the ESPN Body issue, and even faced his own sex-scandal.
Soon after his Olympic triumphs, Buzzfeed released sexy pictures that Leyva says he sent to an ex-girlfriend.
"I'm not going to say that I am proud of it," says Leyva, "but I'm not going to say that I am upset about it either. That is something that everybody does."
Come fame and fortune the Miami-based athlete keeps one thing the same, his lucky charm. Throughout the games fans could see Leyva’s now famous, blue towel he even made sure to bring along to the Fox News Latino studios.
The gymnast needed a towel and two of his aunts rushed to get him one. One rushed to the store and the other to her home. “They both came back with the same one,” laughs Leyva. “It’s more than a coincidence.”
With high hopes and blue towel Leyva will continue his training looking forward to a strong performance at the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.
“Now that we have, like, the taste, the smell of being at the Olympics,” explains Leyva, “now that we know what it’s like, it’ll be a little easier to get the mind-set in the right place.”
Follow Bryan Llenas on Twitter @Bryan_Llenas