[REAL VERSION] London 2012

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Danell Leyva's Bronze Comeback a Golden Moment

Leyva's comeback after early struggles teaches another Olympic lesson

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    NEWSLETTERS

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    Leyva gets a well-earned round of applause.

    It's a common refrain amid the relentlessly positive Olympic coverage that winning a silver or bronze medal is an accomplishment almost on par with taking home the gold.

    Such talk usually sounds like an attempt to find a bright side to seeing four or more years of hard work go up in smoke by hundredths of seconds or a tenth of a point. Tell James Magnussen that touching the wall .01 seconds after Nathan Adrian in the 100m free on Wednesday felt just as good as being the guy in front at the end and you're likely to get a response that doesn't sound charming even if it is delivered with an Australian accent.

    Sometimes, though, moments happen that make you buy into the whole Olympic notion that competing is just as important as the result. Danell Leyva's bronze in the men's gymnastics all-around on Tuesday was one of those moments.

    Leyva crashed and burned on the pommel horse, just as he did during the team competition on Monday, and it looked like his dreams of medaling had gone up in smoke. He ranked 17th after two rotations and looked about as shaken as any athlete could look with his head in a towel after the blunder.

    About the only solace Leyva could take was that his teammate, John Orozco of the Bronx, had done even worse on the apparatus and sat in last place. No one comes to the Olympics to be the less disappointing American gymnast, though.

    They go to challenge athletes like Kohei Uchimura, who has dominated gymnastics for the last four years and who took the gold medal in impressive fashion on Wednesday. And they go to give everything they have and let the chips fall where they may, which is just what Leyva and Orozco did after their disastrous starts.

    Over the next four rotations, they steadily moved their way back into the mix by performing like the gymnasts they were coming into the Games instead of the unsteady ones who looked like they had no place on the big stage. Orozco was too far behind to move back into medal contention, but his eighth place finish said just as much about him as the bronze says about Leyva.

    Leyva, with a door open to a medal after Kazuhito Tanaka fell on floor exercise, nailed his high bar routine and took a bronze that seemed impossible just a little bit earlier in the evening. He did it because he found a reserve that kept him competing even when all looked lost, the reserve that any world class athlete has to have to push and fight their way to the top among so many other talented competitors.

    It was an awfully impressive third place finish, the kind of oxymoron that could only exist at the Olympics and the kind of moment that makes all the forced flowery prose about the Games seem perfectly appropriate. Leyva might not have been the best on Wednesday, but he was definitely still a winner.

    London 2012 is here. Get the top Olympic news, including what to watch, results and features on our local athletes here.

    Josh Alper is a writer living in New York City. You can follow him on Twitter and he is also a contributor to Pro Football Talk.