This one’s going to sting for a while. Olympic gymnast John Orozco has withdrawn from the 2016 Rio Games due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and meniscus in his left knee . The injury occurred while dismounting from the horizontal bar during Olympic team training camp, U.S.A. Gymnastics announced. It’s the second major knee injury in four years for Orozco, who tore his ACL and meniscus during an exhibition after the 2012 Olympic Games. ”John’s injury is unfortunate and heartbreaking news, but he is handling the situation like the true professional and champion that he is. He’s fully supporting the team and its goals moving ahead,” national team coordinator Kevin Mazeika said.
Orozco was overcome with emotion after being selected to Team USA. Anyone who follows the sport has seen John shed a few tears. For good reason too as he’s had a gymnastics career marked by dramatic ups and downs. The 23-year-old has often been on the cusp of greatness. Sadly, he hasn’t quite been able to capitalize on championships by consistently stringing together a group of wins. He was the U.S. Champion heading into the London games in 2012. There Orozco’s performance could best be categorized as a disaster. He fell twice on his vault landing and made highly penalized errors on the pommel horse. Overall, the team under performed and placed a disappointing fifth. It’s been a long road for Orozco who at 14 became the youngest male gymnast to qualify for the elite finals at the Junior US National Championship in 2007.
The youngest of five children, Orozco grew up in humble circumstances in Bronx, NY. His father, William, was a sanitation worker for 20 years until he was forced into retirement due to a stroke. The responsibility of driving John 30 miles away to World Cup Gymnastics, a high caliber facility in the town of Chappaqua, keeping up with homework and raising five children fell to his mother Demaris. All the while, Demaris battled with diminishing health due to Lupus. They were certainly close growing up, but as any twenty something would, John often greeted his mother’s post meet calls with an eye roll. “I’d be like, ‘Mom, leave me alone. I just finished. I don’t want to talk about gymnastics.'” On Valentine’s Day 2015, Demaris unexpectedly passed away. Four months later John tore the Achilles in his right leg for a second time.
In response, the Olympian posted on his Facebook page, “I just keep asking myself “why is this happening right now?” “Where’s the lesson in this?” I’m counting my blessings and weathering this storm because it’s the only choice I have.”
After being advised by doctors to take a full year to rehab, Orozco was back in eight months. One can’t help to speculate how the shortened rehabilitation time factored into his latest injury.
Reigning Olympic bronze medalist Danell Leyva will replace Orozco on the Rio team. Once upon a time, Orozco and Leyva were considered the future of U.S. Men’s Gymnastics. Leyva has had his own set-backs this year. He was bitten multiple times on his hands and legs when he tried to break up a fight between his dogs. Several of the wounds were severe enough causing him to limit his training. Leyva will join Damaris Brooks, Jake Dalton, Sam Mikulak and Alex Naddour. All were either teammates at the 2012 Games, or selected as alternates.
Without a doubt John Orozco is well tested in the areas of grief and disappointment. This guy really deserves some good news.