Danell Leyva is my new hero. I know, I know…..everyone is raving about Michael Phelps and how he’s the all time Olympic champion, blah, blah, blah. Look, I give Michael Phelps his props; he’s accomplished an amazing feat and he certainly has my respect and admiration. But this week, the olympian who inspired me the most was Danell Leyva. For those of you who haven’t been watching gymnastics, Danell Leyva is a member of the men’s U.S. gymnastics team, and at the team competition, they really sucked. Including Danell. The team’s performancewas disappointing to say the least.
How a champion responds
After that disastrous team performance, two of the American gymnasts came back a day later for the “all-around” individual competition; Danell was among the two competing for the U.S. He mounted the pommel horse, the apparatus that defeated him in the team competition. And the horse won again! Danell lost his balance and once more performed poorly. The look on his face said it all. It was over. His chance at a medal was gone. He tucked his face between his knees and covered his head with his “lucky” towel, which didn’t seem so lucky at the moment. “They should let him leave”, I told my husband, “it’s cruel to expect him to keep performing now that he knows he screwed up and can’t win”. I couldn’t imagine the excruciating emotions he was experiencing. He had performed so much below his abilities and now his dream was gone. I felt soooooooooo bad for him!
Well, I’m an idiot. Danell Leyva is a champion (and certainly didn’t need my pity!). How do I know? Tennis champ Venus Williams once said: “You have to believe in yourself when no one else does. That’s what makes you a winner.” And that is exactly what Danell Leyva did! He did the two key things champions do: 1) he continued to believe in himself in spite of failure, and 2) he did not give up! As a result, Danell stood on the podium that night, and brought home an Olympic Bronze Medal. He has made South Florida proud! And he has inspired me for a life time. Thank you Danell!