- Associated Press - Saturday, June 30, 2012

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Danell Leyva has gone from Cuban refugee to Olympian.

Leyva clinched an automatic spot on the U.S. Olympic team Saturday afternoon, almost 20 years after fleeing Cuba with his mother and sister. As he climbed off the podium after his last event, his stepfather and coach Yin Alvarez bowed to him several times, and Leyva responded by picking him up in a bearhug. Leyva’s mother then joined the two, and the family embraced.

Not a bad way to say thanks to their adoptive country.

“It’s very surreal,” Leyva said. “Super unbelievable.”

Leyva edged teammate John Orozco by almost a point in an entertaining game of “Can you top this?” Because both finished in the top three in at least three events, they automatically qualified for the Olympic team. The remaining three members will be chosen by a selection committee, and the team will be announced Sunday.

One of those spots is almost certain to go to Jonathon Horton, a double medalist at the Beijing Olympics and the backbone of the U.S. squad. The other two spots are up for grabs after Samuel Mikulak, who began Saturday in third place in the combined standings from nationals and the first day of trials, was only able to compete on pommel horse after spraining his ankle Thursday.

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