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Mar 03, 2012, 05.26 AM IST
GYMNASTICS-US-LEYVA:World champion Leyva unfazed by gory dog bite
By Larry Fine
NEW YORK (Reuters) - World parallel bars champion Danell Leyva is not letting a gory dog bite that left him with 80 stitches on his face distract him from the lofty goals he has set for the London Olympics.
The Cuban-born Leyva was bitten by his dog Pirata (Spanish for pirate) while he was trying to break up a fight between his three American Bulldogs in his backyard in Florida on February 20.
"Who tries to stop a dog fight? Only me," the U.S. all-around champion told reporters before a practice at Madison Square Garden ahead of Saturday's American Cup.
"After it happened, I looked in the mirror and my ear was hanging down and I was like 'Oh, this is not good at all.'"
Leyva was carrying Pirata into the house when one of his other dogs jumped up at him. He turned, and the excited Pirata gave him a bite on the right side of his face.
He called an ambulance and had the bite attended to.
"They called in a plastic surgeon and he did an amazing job. Somewhere around 80 stitches, inside and outside. You can barely tell," the 20-year-old Leyva said about the bite that ran from the inside of his right ear down to his jaw line.
"My parents wanted to euthanize the dogs and I refused. I was like, 'No, man, it was my fault.'"
The stitches were removed a week ago, with barely any trace on his face, and three days later he was at practice to stay on track for the American Cup.
Leyva said he was determined to set himself on a golden path to the London Games and sought redemption for a slip and fall from the high bar at the Tokyo world championships that dropped him from medals contention in the all-around.
"I won an individual gold medal, but I didn't succeed in all the places I wanted. All-around finals was one of my main goals," he said. "To be able to come back here, and show off here, is great."
Leyva was not shy when asked about what he would be aiming for at the Olympics.
"I have very specific goals," he said. "Team gold, all-around gold, p-bar (parallel bar) gold and high bar gold. That's really lofty but that's why I like going after them."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)
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