It was not an easy road to London for 19-year-old John Orozco. The Puerto Rican gymnast from the Bronx fought through humble beginnings, pushed bullies aside, and overcame injuries to earn him trip to the London 2012 Summer Olympics with Team USA. His triumphant story is now the subject of Gym Class Heroes‘ latest video for “The Fighter.”
But wait. An Olympic gymnast from the Bronx?! Uh, yeah. “It’s not very popular in the Bronx to be a gymnast,” John tells The Daily. “But through all the back-handed jokes and people who didn’t believe I really couldn’t do anything with my life with gymnastics, I just kept my dream in sight, kept my goals and my priorities in my head to make sure that I never lost sight of what was really important and what I really love.” And that’s what he did, through thick and thin.
John got his start before the age of 10 when his dad, a sanitation worker in New York City, came across a flyer for free gymnastics classes in Manhattan. Already a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, John was in class the next day with his dad looking on. Because of class disparities and his skin color, John instantly felt like an outcast while learning gymnastics — but he remained focused. As he grew stronger into the sport, his mom — whom he calls a bionic woman due to numerous joint-replacements — would drive him through pain brought on by rheumatoid arthritis and lupus an hour each way to his training center. But nothing was as much of an Olympic-sized hurdle as was his injury at the 2010 VISA Championships.
In the Gym Class Heroes’ video for “The Fighter,” a then 17-year-old John is shown tearing his Achilles tendon landing a vault during prelims — the last thing any competitive gymnast needs to happen building up to his prime. But in true John Orozco fashion, he was back up in months training to get back in shape.
A year later at the 2011 VISA Championships he earned the all-around bronze medal, and just weeks ago, John Orozco won the U.S. title, landing a spot on the U.S. Olympic team at the age of 19. Now if that isn’t a fighter, I dunno what is. John has become a true symbol of the American spirit, as Heroes’ frontman Travie McCoy explains, and continues to inspire many young and old.
“I really want to show young kids that football and basketball aren’t the only sports out there. It’s okay to not stick with the status quo and not stick with what’s popular,” he said, reflecting on his Bronx roots. “You just gotta get out there and do what you want do to, and do what you love.”
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