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Olympic bronze medalist Danell Leyva came down an escalator at Miami International Airport at 10:27 p.m. to big cheers and applause, hugging family and friends as television cameras crowded around. He said he is very happy with his medal but knows there is room for improvement.
Gymnast Danell Leyva returned home to Miami an Olympic bronze medalist Monday, as supporters welcomed him at Miami International Airport.
Leyva came down an escalator at 10:27 p.m. to big cheers and applause, hugging family and friends as television cameras crowded around.
"This is amazing. It’s truly overwhelming," said Leyva, who held his bronze medal – which he won in the individual all-around at the London 2012 Olympic Games – and let people touch it.
A couple dozen supporters, including Levya’s aunt and his Universal Gymnastics family, gathered for his homecoming in the terminal.
The Miami gymnast, who wore a white United States Olympic Team shirt, said he is "very happy" with his medal, but definitely will compete in two more Summer Games.
“I’m not super-satisfied, but I mean, I didn’t do the perfect competition like I was supposed to, so I know that there’s room for improvement, and I’m happy about it, because next time will be gold," he said about the London 2012 Olympic Games.
Asked why he returned from England before the end of the Olympic Summer Games, Levya said, "I was going to stay for a little bit, but I don’t know, I think I’m a lot happier coming home."
Just before Leyva said cheerio to London and crossed the pond, he talked to NBC 6 about what's next.
Leyva scored his bronze almost a week ago, and already he's living what some call the glamorous life. He spent his last hours in London signing autographs, taking photographs and giving interviews.
The Olympics are a world away from his parents' southwest Miami-Dade gym, where years of training got Leyva fit for the Olympics – not so much for fame.
“You don't really think about the whole aftermath of it,” Leyva said. “You know, you don't think about, like, the agents, the sponsorships, and, you know, the people recognizing you on the street, and asking for autographs and pictures.”
For 20-year-old Leyva, it's all been a dream come true.
One, he says, that came with hard work during his time in a training program called USA gymnastics future stars, which he's now raising funding for through Citibank's Every Step of the Way initiative.
Leyva's among 13 Olympians partnering with Citi, which has thanked him, by turning his foot into a work of art.
“As you can see, these are basically the famous feet, because of every step of the way. Mine is the very flat one right there,” he said.
Ironically, Leyva’s mom, Maria, thought her son's flat feet would hold him back on the gym mats.
But his step dad and coach, Yin, says it pushed Leyva harder – all the way to the London Olympics.
“Working for so many years, you see the progress, you see, improvement, you see a guy over there, the guy that you're teaching from this little to this point. I’m proud,” Yin Alvarez, Leyva's coach and stepdad said.
Leyva’s gymnastics all-around bronze medal has proved no cure for his gold fever though, or his teammates'.
“John Horton said something to me, well, to the whole team, yesterday, after we finished, at the Olympic Village,” Leyva said. “He said, 'As soon as he landed on high bar,' he was already thinking one thing, and it was Rio, and we were all thinking the same thing.”