Danell Leyva led qualifying in the all-around event and also helped pull the United States men’s team to the top of the standings.
In the aisle behind the lower bowl of the gymnastics venue, running around like an overcaffeinated madman shouting, “Vamos!” and “That’s my boy!” is a man who helped Danell Leyvabecome one of the medal favorites.
While Leyva competed in qualifying Saturday, even when hiding under his lucky green towel to shut himself off from the world, he could hear that man cry out, “You’re the best, baby!”
And those words, as usual, made Leyva believe it.
“Everybody thinks it’s an embarrassment because he acts so crazy, but it’s actually a big help,” Leyva said of his stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez, who is known for his antics at meets. “I love hearing him. I love his energy and passion. I feed off of it. It definitely makes me better.”
Leyva, 20, who came to the United States from Cuba when he was a toddler, led qualifying in the all-around event and also helped pull the United States men’s team to the top of the standings.
None of those scores carry over to Monday’s final. But to Leyva, that does not matter. He still has extra confidence going into the biggest week of his life, a week that he and Alvarez have been envisioning for years.
Alvarez said he first dreamed of opening a gym and coaching an Olympian when he was a boy in Cuba, a country he knew would never let him reach that goal.