CHAPPAQUA, N.Y. – When 19-year-old 2012 Olympic-hopeful gymnast John Orozco started at World Cup Gymnastics in Chappaqua 11 years ago coach Jason Hebert knew immediately that he was a star in the making.
“Typically either a kid is strong and not flexible, or flexible and not strong, or strong but fearful, or weak but fearless,” Hebert said. “The very first day he came to try out for our team, you just knew immediately that he was really special. Fearless, strong, flexible - he had all the qualities.
The Bronx-born Orozco currently trains at the United States Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO., where he is preparing for the Visa Championships on June 9. Orozco is one of the top-ranked American gymnasts heading into it and finished first in the event's May 5 qualifier.
"He has a chance to win the whole thing," Hebert said. Orozco won three consecutive golds at the event from 2007 to 2009, before tearing his Achilles' heel during a vault routine at the 2010 Visa Championships.
One year later, Orozco returned to the Visa competition and finished in third place. Hebert said the injury has not slowed down Orozco's spirit, but believes making a full physical recovery is more difficult.
"From what I understand, with that kind of injury, he’ll never be back to 100 percent," Hebert said. "But for right now, I think 90 percent is good enough."
Orozco became eligible for the Olympics, which run July 27 to August 12 in London, after deciding to forgo a college career and turn professional. According to Hebert, the endorsements have been rolling in ever since. He even met First Lady Michelle Obama at an Olympic event on May 14.
"I really think he has a shot at winning a medal, whether it be a gold, silver or bronze, it really doesn’t matter. Just getting on the awards stand is a big accomplishment itself," Hebert said. "He’s really got a bright future."