17 / GYMNAST / Bronx, N.Y.
Achievements: John won his first national championship on the parallel bars at the Junior Olympics in August 2007. Later that summer he took the first of four all-around titles, in the junior division, at the Visa Championships. At this year's Pacific Rim championships, in Melbourne, he won the all-around.
First Steps: From the time her son could stand until he was nearly six, Damaris Orozco noticed that he walked around on his tiptoes. "His calves were so strong," she says. "They were rocks in there." At his first competition, when he was nine, John watched one competitor do a back lever, a difficult skill on the still rings in which the gymnast hangs with his body extended parallel to the ground. Despite never having tried the maneuver, John inserted the skill into his program and nailed it. "Back then," he says, "I didn't know I was supposed to stick to my routine."
Evokes: Paul Hamm, the '03 all-around world champion and '04 all-around Olympic gold medalist who was consistent across all events.
Coach's Comment: "Most kids' bodies are built for specific moves," says Jason Hebert, John's coach at World Cup Gymnastics in Chappaqua, N.Y. "But for John there really hasn't been a limit to his learning. He's been able to develop all the skills. After years of training we were trying to do every skill in the Code of Points."
What's Next: In August, John returns to the Visa Championships, aiming for a spot on the senior national team. Long-term, he's eyeing London in 2012.