Going for the Gold

Westchester-trained gymnast makes US Olympic team—again

When you’re watching the 2016 Summer Olympics Games in Rio this month, keep an eye out for John Orozco and maybe root for him just a little bit harder. Not just because Orozco is a product of World Cup Gymnastics in Chappaqua, where he trained for 10 years before transitioning to the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, but also because he had to come through a lot to get there. 

It’s been a long and arduous journey for the 23-year-old gymnast from the Bronx. His place on the national team was far from a fait accompli. He’s struggled this year following a second injury to his Achilles tendon. He’s also just emerging from the grief he experienced from the sudden death his mother and “best friend,” Damaris Orozco, whom he lost in February of 2015. The good news, according to Jason Hebert, his former coach at World Cup Gymnastics, is that John appears to be digging down deep in order to turn tragedy into triumph.

“The first time around [in the 2012 London Games], the nerves got to him, and it lingered for a couple of years,” says Hebert, referring to John’s fall on the pommel horse, which knocked him out of medal contention in the All-Around competition. “But after the death of his mother, he became more focused and can now deal with the nerves.”

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Under the tutelage of Hebert and Head Coach Carl Schrade before him, Orozco shone during his decade at World Cup Gymnastics, winning the Junior Visa US National Championships three straight years. His first win, in 2007, made him the youngest male gymnast ever to qualify for the finals. Today, Hebert says he feels optimistic about John’s chances to shine once again.

“John sets a goal for himself, and he goes after it no matter what obstacles or difficulties cross his path,” Hebert asserts. “Plus, John has always healed very quickly. The injury to his Achilles would likely only affect him in the All Around but would not hurt his chances to make the events the USA needed the most. The ultimate goal is to medal as a team.”  —NAB

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