Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Danell Leyva Status Update: Improving

Since London, Danell Leyva has had a rough go at things. No, there haven't been more scandalous photos floating around the interwebs. (Darn.) It's his gymnastics and health--not his judgment--that have been under scrutiny. In case you haven't been keeping track…

At the 2012 Stuttgart World Cup, Danny Boy, as his dad calls him, took 5th in the all-around. A week later, he took 4th in the all-around at the Glasgow World Cup. In February, under the new Code of Points, he finished 3rd behind London Olympian Jake Dalton and Michigan gymnast Adrian de los Angeles. At the time, he was sick with a cold. Weeks later, he came down with the flu, but still competed at the American Cup. He finished sixth. In May, he withdrew from the Tokyo World Cup with a shoulder injury.

Setting Tokyo aside, these aren't bad results. That said, quite frankly, gymnastics fans had higher expectations for Danell. It wasn't until this past weekend that Danell finally did what people expect him to do. He won. At the U.S. National Qualifier, he posted the highest all-around score of the competition and his personal best of the year: an 87.000.

If you've been looking at the UTRS, this is not one of the highest scores of the year, but for Danell, it is an improvement. And I'd like to highlight some of the areas that have improved.

1. Vault

Leading up to the Olympics, Danell struggled with his Kasamatsu 1.5 on vault, so he downgraded it to a Kasamatsu full at the Olympics. By the beginning of 2013, however, the harder vault was back in his repertoire.

This was worrisome at the American Cup. After watching Danell do a tumbling pass which consisted of skipping, we prayed that Danell would downgrade his vault. Which he didn't do. But praise the gym gods! he still landed it. Which prompted Yin Alvarez to compliment Danell on his "cojones" ("balls") on national TV. (NBC, how did that one get past you?)

Anyway, I digress. With Danell's Kasamatsu, as with most vaults, really, the difference between a good vault and a bad vault is a matter of heel drive. At the Olympic Trials, his heel drive was lacking. Almost a year later, at the National Qualifier, it was much better. As 2013 continues, keep an eye on Danell's feet.

2. Double Front on Parallel Bars

In 2013, Danell ditched the double pike dismount and started chucking a double front because it was worth more. And it was really more of a chucked skill than anything. You can really see that in this video from the second night of the Winter Cup. He leaned forward as far as possible, pushed off the bars, grabbed his knees, and prayed. In the video above, he's showing a little more finesse, and he's being a tad bit more patient. Kudos.

3. Peach to Single-Rail Handstand

When gymnasts start performing new skills, you can often tell that it's new for them. They just look jittery. Watch, for instance, Danell's peach to one bar at the American Cup. It's at the 0:59 mark:

His movement is as trepidatious and as jerky as a first grader learning to cross the monkey bars. But as you can see in the video from the qualifier, he's much smoother--like a seasoned 4th grade monkey bar pro. Boo-yah!

4. A Maletese!

I never thought I'd see Danell Leyva do a Maltese…

But it happened!

I didn't count how many seconds he held it! Heck, I didn't even watch the rest of the routine! I was too busy screaming, "Nuh uh!" at my computer screen. When I rewatched the Maltese, reality slapped me in the face, and I flew over to my online bank statement to make sure I have enough cash to pay off all my lost bets. (The Third Hamm, get ready for a wad of cash coming your way! Err… That sounded dirtier than it should have.)

So, there you have it: A brief report on Mr. Danell Leyva's improvements. As for the other events? Well, they were kind of a mixed bag.

  • Pommel Horse: If you'd like, you can watch Danell's somewhat disastrous pommel horse routine here. Let me warn you; he received a 6.7 in execution. 
  • Floor: His floor routine features a Tamayo now! But it also features a not-so-hot whipback into 2.5 into Barani. Leave the twisting to the Japanese, Danell…
  • High Bar: I love his stretched Kovacs and his piked Kovacs. But all that love is undone when I watch his Stalder 1.5. I don't know how the judges give him credit for that skill when he finishes it so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so, late. ('Cause that wasn't annoying…)
As of right now, Danell has 30 days and 17 hours until he competes at U.S. Nationals. The question is, Is that enough time for Danell to polish his routines?

What do you think? Leave a comment below.


  1. I'm not betting on this. Leyva is erratic. This time was better. The next time could be worse. No one knows which way it will go. 87 points isn't going to cut it for somebody to do the AA at Worlds or even win US Nationals. He will probably upgrade by Nationals, but he still has a way to go. He will probably make the team for HB and PB.

    50 bucks to Cal Gymnastics says Marvin Kimball finishes ahead of him in Hartford.

  2. He might not medal at all at Nationals. Marvin Kimble, Jake Dalton, Sam Mikulak and Donnell Whittenburg will likely place ahead of him as well unless he somehow stays on the horse.