Let’s speak tonight of the losers. There’s plenty of flag-waving and cheering for the Olympic winners. Tonight I thrilled with millions of other viewers to the accomplishments of Nathan Adrian and Rebecca Soni, of Danell Leyva and Misty May-Treanor. Bravo, Olympians.
But what about those who let us down? I get hung up on the big disappointments; as a nonjock, I can relate to losing the race. No narrative tonight could have been more poignant than that of John Orozco, the 19-year-old American gymnast who made a bad showing on the pommel horse Monday night (as did Leyva). Orozco is a Puerto Rican-American from the Bronx; his father worked for the NYC Department of Sanitation until he had a stroke. Orozco has said that he hoped his Olympic performance would help alter his family’s fortunes. This is the “uplift” story we all crave when watching the Olympic Games.
Alas, Orozco again made terrible, this time irredeemable, mistakes on the pommel horse as reported here, mistakes that put him out of the running for a medal at the 2012 Games. NBC commentators observed that he seemed to tighten up on the horse, and his dismount was, well, dismal. You didn’t need a commentator to tell you that. To watch Orozco on the bench after his performance was to see an utterly abject human being. Can you blame me for getting caught up in the sadness of his defeat?
Orozco himself seemed philosophical once he had accepted the evening’s letdown. “I wish I would’ve done better so I can go back and have them be proud of me,” he said of family and friends in New York. “But what are you going to do? I guess this was just meant to happen.” How can a 19-year-old have such poise? I guess it’s part -- an essential part -- of the Olympic Games. There can be no great victories without great defeats.
We’ll see you in Rio de Janeiro in 2016, John Orozco. Good luck.