Check it out, people. More relentless spam from me involving Dani Leyva, this time from ESPN.
Leyva’s vision may sound naive or grandiose, but considering where he came from and where he’s landed, it might be perilous to bet against him. He entered life without a parachute. Born in Cuba, where kids are selected early for sports academies, Leyva was a chubby, asthmatic toddler who wouldn’t have been anyone’s pick.
It’s easy to see where he got his conviction that anything is possible. Leyva’s stepfather and coach, Yin Alvarez, defected on a trip to Mexico in 1992, stripping and swimming across the Rio Grande River with his clothes in a plastic bag. A year later, Leyva’s mother, Maria Gonzalez, decided she had to get her sickly child out of Cuba and spirited Danell and his older sister to the United States alone via Peru and Venezuela. The two childhood friends and former gymnasts married in 2001 after working together in Florida.
“My goals for afterward, they’re really big,” Leyva says of life after gymnastics. “Very lofty. I’ve never said, ‘Oh, I want to.’ I’ve always said, ‘Oh, I’m going to.’”