As 19-year-old John Orozco competed on the world’s biggest stage at the London Games for the U.S. men’s Olympic gymnastics team, he carried with him big dreams and a piece of the Bronx. However, the Throggs Neck product saw many of his Olympic dreams crushed under the weight of intense pressure during the team competition on Monday night. It was written all over his face before and after the event.
Orozco, along with Olympic trials champion Danell Leyva, was expected to be a pillar of a strong U.S. collective. Instead, both Orozco and Leyva uncharacteristically imploded, and the United States, which was in solid medal contention after the preliminary round, plummeted to fifth place as the Chinese contingent of gymnasts snatched the gold.
Orozco and Leyva both experienced forgettable routines on the pommel horse. Leyva’s performance and score were more substandard and disappointing as he faltered on the horse and crashed on his butt in the dismount, laying despondently on the mat then coming to tears on the sideline.
“The pressure shouldn’t have an effect, but I guess it does because I didn’t do as well as I had hoped,” he dejectedly said afterwards.
Orozco’s experiences growing up in the Bronx helped shape his determination, resilience and fearlessness that lifted him to London. He got there by placing second in the all-around at the Olympic trials as well as winning the all-around national title at the Visa Championships in June. That is why his shaky showing on Monday was somewhat surprising.
Regardless of the outcome, Orozco’s success should not be measured by how many medals he accumulates across the Atlantic. It is the ethics of hard work and perseverance, instilled in him by his parents, William and Damaris, natives of Puerto Rico, that are the true measure of his achievement.
He recalled, “All the kids would tease me, and…I was pretty down about it,” shared the graduate of the Felisa Rincon de Gautier Institute for Law and Public Policy high school in the Soundview section of the Bronx. “When I walked into school, they would say, ‘There’s the gymnast kid who walks around in tights.’” So do other superheroes. And to many aspiring inner-city gymnasts, Orozco fits that description.