John Leek, produce manager at the Hy-Vee store on Southeast 14th Street in Des Moines, IA, is watching the 2012 Summer Olympic Games a little closer than most of us.
“I’ve got two members of the family competing. Can you imagine?” says Leek with a laugh.
His third cousin and a niece are both on the U.S. team in London. The cousin, Miranda Leek, was a favorite to win the gold in women’s archery. The niece, Sarah Finnegan, is an alternate on the women’s gymnastics team.
Maybe that’s why Leek knows the names and individual strengths of all the gymnasts, and he can break down the strategy they will employ to win the gold. And he can recite the scoring nuances of archery, which got underway Friday.
Leek was busy working the sales floor Friday and had to rely on friends and relatives to keep him up-to-date on Miranda’s progress in the early rounds of the competition. She was in 14th position, which Leek feared might make it difficult to mount a comeback.
“But 14th in the world is still pretty good,” he said. “You never know.”
Leek, 19, of Des Moines, picked up her first bow as a 5 year old. She describes her father, Leek’s brother, as her personal coach and biggest influence.
"There have been several times where the pressure is just too much, going through really tough times," she told the Chicago Tribune. "My dad has been such a huge driving force for me. He's the one who's like, 'You can do this if you just pull it together and buckle down.'"
Finnegan, 15, of Kansas City, is the youngest member of the women’s team. She has three sisters who are gymnasts. At the Olympic Trials earlier this month in San Jose, CA, she placed sixth in the all-around with a two-day combined score of 118.5. She was sixth on uneven bars, fifth on the balance beam, and sixth in floor exercise.
“She’s exceptional on the balance beam. Very, very strong,” her uncle said. “I’m hoping they’ll use her there.”
Leek says he’s always been a sports fan and never misses the Olympics, even though archery and gymnastics were never on his “must see” list. Until now.
“I told my brother in law on Sunday: ‘There’s NASCAR, baseball and golf on TV, and I’ll be watching women’s gymnastics,” he said. “But you really get interested in it when it’s a member of your family. I’m really proud of them.”