On horse, typically the U.S. teams weakest event, Leyvas clearance was low until his legs flew apart and he was bucked off. He completed his routine but stomped off the podium shaking his head. His 13.4 score was second lowest of the night.
I felt something weird at the beginning and didnt stay relaxed, which is key on horse, Leyva said. The lesson for me was not to rush things.
Orozco, who has traded supremacy in the United States with Leyva over the past year, appeared the most nervous. He brushed then briefly sat down upon the horse, and his 12.733 was painful.
Orozcos front handspring double full twist dismount off vault ended with a splat.
I fell on my butt, said Orozco, who admitted his technique during practices had not been coming around. After vault I said, OK, thats two routines Ive destroyed.
The pressure shouldnt have an effect, but I guess it does because I didnt do as well as I had hoped.
Orozco struggled to stay composed on the sideline as coach Kevin Mazeika spoke with him.
John is a strong guy so I dont think he needs cuddling, Leyva said in defense of him.
Leyva said he missed the energizing presence of his voluble stepdad and coach, Yin Alvarez; only team coaches were allowed on the floor.
But I heard him from the stands, and I know hes always there, Leyva said. You could see we werent scared. And now I know the Olympic feeling, what the crowd sounds like, what the air tastes like chalk and sweat. We had highs and lows.
Orozco, the son of Puerto Rican parents from the Bronx, and Leyva, raised by a mother and stepfather who defected from the Cuban gymnastics team to Miami, are both 20 and counted on to be the young guns of the team. But on too many instances Monday, they lacked their usual crisp confidence and flair.
After three rotations, the United States was in last place.
Horton, who won two medals at the 2008 Games and is the senior leader, reminded his teammates their best events were still to come. But the Americans were in a hole while Chinas Chen Yibing stilled the rings, Great Britains Kristian Thomas dominated the vault and Japans mop-topped 5-3 world champ Kohei Uchimura executed his maneuvers in silky form. China qualified in sixth place but demonstrated its experience and unflappable resolve by not committing an error in its last four rotations.
Leyva, world champ on parallel bars, flubbed his positioning midway through his routine and had to ad-lib, as he did at Olympic trials but hit his peach Diamodov and double pike landing. Orozcos score was a mediocre 15.133.
The United States saved its best for last on the horizontal bar, but it was too late. Orozco made his trademark soft landing. Horton was impeccable and Leyvas high score of 15.866 took some sting out and showed a quick recovery. Yet afterward, regret. The United States could have capitalized on a night when Japan was not at its best. Horton embraced a red-eyed Leyva, and the Americans circled around their coach.
The Chinese celebrated, Japan won its appeal of a low horse start value for Uchimura, boosting his score by .7 to 14.166. Ukraine stewed. Great Britain was incredulously joyful.
Id like to thank my mum and dad for driving me to the gym every day, Daniel Purvis said.
The Americans shook his hand.