You’d think that being an Olympic-level athlete is a big enough accomplishment for one lifetime. But not in Danell Leyva’s case! The gymnast has three Olympic medals to his name from the 2012 and 2016 games, one bronze and two silver medals earned during his time with Team USA.
He also now has the distinction of being the first Olympian to advance to the National Finals on American Ninja Warrior. While gymnasts generally have a skill set that translates well to the course, Danell has some natural Ninja abilities mixed in there also. He completed the Los Angeles Qualifying course. In the City Finals, he made it all the way to difficult ninth obstacle that took out so many veterans.
Danell has the chance ahead of him to hit more buzzers. We spoke with him just as we all arrived in Las Vegas for the National Finals.
“City Finals was really interesting. That night, it was very, very cold. So waiting to go was kind of hard. But it was just about like kind of keeping myself occupied and busy. So I was just watching YouTube and finding videos and I’m pretty sure I took a nap at some point.
Just waiting, then when I actually got out there it felt really good. I think I actually did the first part of the course a lot quicker than I did the first night and it was tough because that last, the ninth obstacle that took me out, it was really, really tough.
It’s actually interesting because initially my plan was to just to miss that last hold and just go for the landing pad. I just slipped before I could actually jump, which is kind of good because, Hunter (Guerard) when he tried to do it, he hit his head. So I guess it was kind of like a good thing that I didn’t go for it. But yeah, it was a cool experience.”
“(Making Vegas) A little bit unbelievable, just because of the fact that I fell and I was like, ‘Well, I probably didn’t make it. That’s fine.’ But then they said that I ran fast enough that I did make it. So it was really cool.
It’s really cool to be out here. I mean I used to come out here all the time for competition in gymnastics, so it’s very familiar in a way for sure. The difference is that we used to compete in February and it’s really hot now. So that’s really the biggest difference. But I think it’s really cool and I’m really excited, just kind of ready to go.”
“Hopefully I do make it past Stage One, just because as an athlete you never really want to fail anyways. But I think it just be really cool to just make it past Stage One and actually be the first Olympian to make it past Stage One.”
The Olympian plans to keep his historic streak alive when he returns for the National Finals in a few weeks!