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Gabrielle Douglas had a tough time on the uneven bars Monday, Aug. 6, 2012, finishing last among eight competitors in the individual event. (Karl Mondon/Contra Costa Times)

SAN JOSE -- John Orozco left the Olympic trials in San Jose this summer as one of the stars of the U.S. men's gymnastics team heading into the London Games.

He returns to HP Pavilion on Saturday night for the debut of the Kellogg's Tour of Gymnastics Champions reflecting on how it went so wrong for the promising Americans.

The United States finished fifth in the team competition after getting the highest score in the preliminary round. Danell Leyva earned the American men's only medal -- a bronze in the individual all-around competition.

Orozco, 19, now is embarking on the 40-city, three month tour that features the Fierce Five and headliner Gabby Douglas as well as 2008 women's Olympic all-around champion Nastia Liukin. (For tour information: http://usagym.org/pages/events/tour)

The women fulfilled their potential by winning the team gold medal for the first time since 1996 in Atlanta. Then Douglas won the prestigious all-around crown to become the toast of the London Games with an effervescent personality that complimented head-turning gymnastics routines.

The life span of women gymnasts is so short it's questionable whether the teen stars of London will be capable of qualifying for the Rio de Janeiro Games in four years.

But Orozco is expected to come into his prime by 2016. The United States expects to be much improved in the next cycle because four of the five London Olympians are 21 or younger. And the old guy -- 26-year-old Jonathan Horton of Houston -- isn't retiring.


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"It's almost more selfish to be done and say, 'OK guys, you figure it out on your own,' " said Horton, who was in San Jose with Orozco this week to promote Saturday's show that starts at 7:30 p.m.

"Even if we had won the team gold and done everything I could ever dream of doing I feel like it is my responsibility to the team to stick around as long as I can contribute."

Horton, a two-time medalist at the Beijing Games, is America's most experienced gymnast. Even if he fails to qualify for his third Olympics he wants to remain on the scene to help Orozco and the others who struggled on the big stage in London.

The unflappable Orozco said he came undone in the 02 Arena "with all these people, dramatic music playing, all these lights going."

Horton said it's 99 percent mental once gymnasts reach the Olympics.

Orozco faltered on the pommel horse during the team final after Leyva scored poorly on the apparatus. He shoulders much of the blame for the Americans failing to stay in medal contention.

"I don't want him to ever blame himself for anything," Horton said. "We all made mistakes."

Orozco said the pre-Olympic expectations got to him.

"It's a lot of pressure for the whole nation" to get behind the team, he said. "I know it is supposed to be encouraging but at the same time ... if I don't do it, I'm letting the whole nation down."

But it's not that simple. Gymnastics is an exacting sport where the smallest error can be a deciding factor.

"The Olympics can make or break you," Horton said. "What's something that you want more than anything in the world -- that you have worked for it your entire life? Then someone says, 'You have 60 seconds and you can have it but you have to do it perfect.' "

That's the Olympics.

Horton has confidence the Americans will ready for such pressure in 2016 because Orozco, Leyva, 20, and Sam Mikulak, 19, will have so much more experience by then. If the trio stays healthy they are expected to be the nucleus of a promising team.

Although the tour is a time for relaxation and fun, the gymnasts expect to work on their serious skills backstage where they will practice vaulting and the pommel horse.

But neither Horton nor Orozco will return to full-time training until November when the tour ends. Orozco lives at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he doesn't even own a car.

Orozco wasn't the only U.S. star disappointed with the results in London. Jordyn Wieber, 16, the reigning world all-around champion, didn't qualify for the individual event after finishing fourth in the preliminaries.

Because each country was only allowed two entrants Wieber got shut out by Douglas and Aly Raisman, who tied for third but lost the bronze medal in a tiebreaking rule.

"I learned how strong of a person I am," said Wieber, who didn't immediately return to high school classes this semester because of the tour. "I also learned that my teammates helped me a lot so I learned to rely on them. Overall it was just an amazing experience and I probably wouldn't change anything."

Raisman, 18, might have been the surprise gymnast among the Americans after winning the gold medal in the floor exercise and a bronze on the balance beam to even outshine Douglas. She said losing the bronze medal in the all-around because of the controversial rule "made me more fired up. In the end was a good thing and being fourth in the world was something to be proud of."

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865 and follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/elliottalmond.