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Kids and coaches at Universal Gymnastics gathered for a second time Tuesday to watch one of their own, Miami Olympian Danell Leyva, compete in the London 2012 Olympic Games on a large screen. Watch this brief description of the gym.
Miami Olympian Danell Leyva did not medal in the horizontal bar on Tuesday.
Leyva, who already got a bronze medal at these Olympics, scored 15.833 and placed fifth in the event.
"Obviously, I wish that he would've won the medal. I didn't see what happened," said his aunt Mercedes LaPorta. "I am sure he is disappointed."
Before the competition LaPorta said she's not only proud of his resilience, but also of the status he's gaining.
“It is just the beginning,” she said. “He is a hometown hero and is going to be a national hero here very soon.”
Meanwhile, at Universal Gymnastics, which is owned by Leyva's step-father, who is also his coach, the atmosphere was hopeful.
"I think he did amazing. He did something. It is a real big honor to compete for the U.S.," said Jeanne Barrera, who has trained with Leyva for years. "He is very ambitious. He is very spiritual. He believes in himself. If he thinks he is going to do it, then he will do it."
Another gymnast at Universal said Leyva hasn't reached the end yet.
"He had excellent days and he had his slipups, but it was a very great first Olympics," said Ari Barrera. "Because there will be more for him, I believe. He still has not reached his peak."
Leyva, who plans to compete in Rio de Janeiro and the 2020 Olympics, wants the same success as Japan's Kohei Uchimura.
“He admires the Japanese so much,” said LaPorta. “His goal is to surpass [Uchimura.] I think he is more than capable of doing that.”
The 20-year-old Cuban-American gymnast took home a gold medal in the parallel bars in the 2011 World Championship in Tokyo, but he didn’t have the same success in London.
The U.S. men’s gymnastics team failed to medal in the team finals, but Leyva quickly made a comeback and earned a bronze medal in the individual all-around.
“That’s Danell,” his aunt said. “When he’s down is when he gets more inspired and motivated to do even better.”
The family last spoke with a “pretty pumped up” Leyva on Friday. Also excited are members of the South Florida community.
“Everybody is just so elated,” she said. “Everyone is so proud of him. He represents Cuba and the United States.”
But you can’t talk about Miami’s hometown hero without mentioning his sweat towel, which has now gained so much attention that it has its own Twitter account.
“It has a life of its own,” his aunt said.
The towel was given to Leyva almost four years ago by two of his aunts. LaPorta said a hysterical Leyva once left it at the beach and returned at night with members of the gym to find it. The towel, which sports stars and the universe, is symbolic.
It means “reach for the stars because whatever you want to accomplish, you can,” his aunt said.
Leyva is expected to come home after his mother and stepfather. His aunt said that in addition to another watch party Tuesday morning, his friends and family are currently planning a gym party for his homecoming.