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Interview with Members of USA Olympic Gymnastics Team

Aired June 8, 2012 - 21:00   ET


PIERS MORGAN, HOST: Tonight, pride of America. Shining stars of the summer games join me for an extraordinary hour.

Gold medal champion Nastia Liukin.


NASTIA LIUKIN, GYMNASTICS OLYMPIC GOLD MEDALIST: This is something that you've been dreaming about for your whole entire life.


MORGAN: John Orozco, the boy from the Bronx who never gave up.


JOHN OROZCO, ATHLETE: It would mean everything I've suffered through has finally been worth it.


MORGAN: Plus, a newcomer Aly Raisman on her very first Olympics.

And making a splash again, the great Michael Phelps. A preview of my candid conversation on fame fortune and the ferocious will to win.


MICHAEL PHELPS, OLYMPIC SWIMMER: When I step up on the block, that I am wearing stars and stripes. And that's the coolest thing.


MORGAN: Their word, their stories, America's hope.

This is a special edition of PIERS MORGAN TONIGHT.


MORGAN: Good evening.

Big story tonight: London 2012. It's hard to believe we're fewer than 50 days away from the Olympics. For America, the best athletes will be hoping to take home the gold. For the gymnastics team, the nationals are taking place this very weekend -- the last great contest before the games themselves.

I've talked with some of those star gymnasts in just a moment. But, first, let's get right to preparations under way back in London. Days after the jubilee, the city is working around the clock to get ready.

Let's start with CNN's Richard Quest, who is at the heart of things -- Richard.

RICHARD QUEST, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR & CORRESPONDENT: Piers, barely have we got over the excitement of the jubilee and finely dried out, and now get ready for the Olympics in 49 days time. Ten and a half thousand athletes from more than 200 countries will be arriving in the British capital.

The Olympic torch is north of the border, in Scotland, making its way around Glasgow. And when all is said, and the games are over, the British will have spent the best part of $40 billion hosting the games. Tidying up now, 30 or so Olympic venues making sure the city is spruced up and clean, ready for 5 million visitors. And who knows, Piers, we may manage to turn our boats around (INAUDIBLE).

MORGAN: Quite agree with you, Richard. There should be an Olympic sport of turning the boats around. We would go home with the gold.

From basketball to boxing, America is determined to bring home the gold. And for many, the gymnastics team has the best chance to do so. The team has rising stars and veteran heroes, including Nastia Liukin who has a record five medals in Beijing.

I've spoken to her recently. You'll see why she has a very special reason to feel pride in America.


MORGAN: Nastia, how are you?

LIUKIN: Good. Thank you.

MORGAN: Now what I love about you is you've come with a nice little handbag.

LIUKIN: I have.

MORGAN: I'm going to ask you what was inside it. You said your medals.


MORGAN: Prove it.


MORGAN: I want to see your medals.

LIUKIN: They're in little baggies, the little gold bags.

MORGAN: So gold bag for the gold ones.


MORGAN: And these are all from Beijing?


MORGAN: Now this is a genuine Olympic gold medal.

LIUKIN: It's real.

MORGAN: I've never touched one before.

LIUKIN: Really?

MORGAN: They're pretty cool, aren't they?


MORGAN: They're quite heavy.

LIUKIN: They are heavy, especially when you have five.

MORGAN: And they have your inscription. You got five of them. So there they are.



MORGAN: What does it feel like to actually own Olympic gold medals?

LIUKIN: It's kind of surreal, because you know, this is something that you've been dreaming about for your whole entire life and ever since I knew like what the word Olympics meant, I always knew that I wanted to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games.

And so now, it's like I hold it and know that it's actually mine and it's almost like, you know, 23 years is like in this one little piece of metal.

And so, it's kind of a lot to take in when you're just sitting there looking at it, because it's very -- it's surreal to know that your dreams have come true and you know, not many people do because only one person can win that Olympic all-around gold medal and to know that I was that one in 2008 is incredible.

MORGAN: Now, here's the weird thing about you that I want to explore, because I'm just a humble Brit, trying to get to greet American Olympics. And here you are, you're called Nastia Liukin. You're born in Moscow. Both your parents were Russian. And both competed for the Soviet Union, right?


MORGAN: Why are you representing America and what are you speaking in this lovely American accent? Why are you not speaking like this, representing Russia?

LIUKIN: Well, we moved to the United States when I was 2 1/2 years old. And my parents, after they finished their competitive career in gymnastics, their dream was to always open up a gymnastics school and coach gymnasts and hopefully on to world championships and Olympic Games. And they knew that, you know, back at the time in, you know, 1989, 1990, they -- that wasn't really possible in Russia.

And so they knew that they wanted to move to the United States to hopefully give the opportunity to be able to be able to create a gymnastics school.

And so that's kind of what they did, is they, you know, packed a few suitcases, no much money, just the toddler me, and got on a plane and, you know, just went after their dreams and --

MORGAN: Where did you start in America?

LIUKIN: New Orleans.

MORGAN: New Orleans.

LIUKIN: Out of all places, and it was the week of Mardi Gras when we moved there.

MORGAN: It's been crazy --

LIUKIN: It was crazy. I was 21/2 years old. My parents didn't know a lick of English and you know, here we are in the middle of Mardi Gras, and they were like, oh my gosh, what have we done? Where have we moved?

And you know, things ended up being OK. We stayed there for a year and then we moved to Dallas.

MORGAN: You look, for all intents and purposes, like a classic Dallas girl.


MORGAN: Yes. I can see --

LIUKIN: I take that as a compliment.

MORGAN: Yes, I love -- I love girls in Dallas.


MORGAN: But the -- it's strange to me that, do you ever like going back to Russia. Would you go back to Russia?

LIUKIN: We do. I used to try to go back once a year. I have grandparents that still live there, one great-grandma. She's 93. And my mom actually was there for 10 days. She just got back yesterday.

But now because I'm in intensive training, I can't quite hop on a plane and cross the country. But the last time I was there was three years ago.

MORGAN: And how does your grandmother feel about you representing America?

LIUKIN: I think they're OK with it. You know, I think -- they travel back and forth quite a bit, too, and you know, hopefully they'll move over here eventually. But you know, they've just been so supportive of it all.

And with my parents, and I think that they were very nervous when my mom just -- she's the only child and I'm the only child. So, when my mom left Russia and her parents -- she lived with her parents until she got married and I think that they were very nervous --


MORGAN: It's incredible thing for your mom to have done and your dad. And yet they must now be so proud of you, to come to this country with nothing, not even the ability to speak the language and to have this little tiny shrimp (ph) who goes on to win Olympic gold medals in their adopted country, an amazing thing.

LIUKIN: Thank you.

MORGAN: How did they feel when you won the gold?

LIUKIN: Well, my mom wasn't there. She was out walking the streets of Beijing. She gets too nervous watching.

MORGAN: Really?

LIUKIN: She actually went to like some Chinese temple and you know, I had to call her as soon as I knew that I won, but she turned her phone on silent so nobody would break the news to her. So she was ignoring my calls. I finally texted her and I said, "Hi, Mom, I won, period. I love you." And that's how she found out.

So she rushed back over to the arena to try and make it in time for the medal ceremonies. And you know, I've never really seen my dad cry and the one time that I saw him have tears besides when I was getting my gold medal and then the flag was coming up in the national anthem.

I think there was just so many years of not just hard work but different obstacles and injuries and things that I had to overcome in being, you know, over the hill at just 18 years old --

MORGAN: Yes, I mean, you were ancient.

LIUKIN: -- ancient. I mean, what am I going to be now?

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LIUKIN: -- dinosaur, yes. And --


LIUKIN: So, I think that so many different thoughts and feelings were going through both of our minds, but to know that it finally worked. You know, it finally worked.

MORGAN: It's the culmination of your father's dream in many ways. I mean, America gets quite a bad rap from a lot of people at the moment, with all the economic strife and everything else. But America's been very good to you and your family, hasn't it?

LIUKIN: It definitely has and I think it's given us so many amazing opportunities. And to have now not just one but three gymnastics schools in the Dallas area and, you know, have over 3,000 kids enrolled.

And every day you walk into that gym, and you're just, you know, I'm thankful for these opportunities that this country has given us. And to be able to represent them is -- it's a huge honor to me, to be able to wear the American flag on my leotard.

MORGAN: You still have dual citizenship or you now the --

LIUKIN: I have dual citizenship.

MORGAN: You do? So do you still -- you consider yourself really American or both?

LIUKIN: You know, it's hard to answer that question. I think I -- I definitely consider myself American, just because I grew up here. I've -- more likely this was my first language. You know, I can speak fluent in Russian, but --

MORGAN: Speak to me in Russian, come on.

LIUKIN: OK. What do you want me to say?

MORGAN: Whatever -- I wouldn't understand you anyway. There's no difference. The only any Russian I know is "zaly lubla (ph)," which I think means "I love you."

LIUKIN: That was close.

MORGAN: That's a bit awkward. That's all I know in Russian.

LIUKIN: Ya tebya lyublyu. That means "I love you."

MORGAN: Really?


MORGAN: We got that on camera? It's a big moment. My wife won't be happy, but I like it.

We've got a bit more. I want to hear -- tell me a little bit -- talk in some Olympic speak.


MORGAN: Fantastic. Very sexy language, isn't it?


MORGAN: I mean, I'm not knocking the way Dallas people speak, but it really is, I think.

LIUKIN: You know what's funny? Because now every time I go back to Russia they say I have like an American accent speaking Russian.


LIUKIN: And like I didn't even know that was possible --


LIUKIN: But you know, it was funny growing up. My parents have a little bit more of an accent and -- I mean, they started speaking the language and learning English because we watched like "Barney" and "Sesame Street" together. And that's how they learned English.

And so, you know, anytime we see that it's just so funny that I started learning in preschool and kindergarten. And I was bringing home my books and my, you know, homework, and they were kind of looking over my shoulder, trying to learn it with me.

So, you know, to see how far we've come in a matter of years is just -- it's very inspiring to me. Obviously, they're my parents and I look up to them, but I look up to them for more reasons than just them being my parents, because it takes a lot to just get on a plane and go somewhere where --

MORGAN: Incredible courage, I think.

LIUKIN: A lot of courage, and I think that, you know, courage is one of the main things that got me to where I am today, because I could have just given up a few times when I had an injury and, you know, many people said that I wouldn't make the Olympic team because I was too old and too injured and this and that, but to have that courage to step up to it and to keep going after your dreams.

MORGAN: Let's take a little break, and when we come back, I want to talk to you about the fact that you shouldn't really be here. You said you weren't going to be competing, and then you became the comeback kid at the grand old age of -- how old are you?

LIUKIN: Twenty-two.

MORGAN: I mean, really, ridiculous to see. You're finished, you should be in some sort of (INAUDIBLE) gymnasts. After the break, we're going to discuss this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) MORGAN: I'm back with pride of America. A look at the country's Olympic athletes as they prepare for London.

Before the break, I was talking to Nastia Liukin, a gold medal- winning gymnast. She's a remarkable young woman, who is certainly going to collect even more medals this summer. Here's more from my interview with Nastia.

So, Nastia, you shouldn't really be here, as I was saying, because you were not going to compete in the London Olympics. What changed your mind?

LIUKIN: You know, there's something about the sport of gymnastics in the Olympic Games. I think so many people can explain to you what an Olympic Games is like. But until you're actually there and participating, there's no greater feeling than representing your country and you know, just competing on the biggest stage in the world.

And I think something like the Olympic Games, there so many countries involved that it doesn't matter what's going on in your country. Everybody kind of forgets about it for those two weeks, and everybody is there for that one dream, is to win a medal for their country.

And I think that is so incredible to be able to walk around the Olympic Village and see people and, you know, their jackets and have their countries on the back and just know that everyone's there for that one passion.

And I just couldn't get away from it. I don't know. Gymnastics is something that I have such a deep passion for, and I know that at the end of the August 2012, you know, looking back, I didn't want to have any regrets.

And I didn't want to think, "What if?" I think those two words just scared me to death. I didn't want to think, "What if I would have tried?" What if I would have given it my all for these last few months and, you know, could I have made another Olympic team? Could I have won another gold medal? Could I have helped Team USA win a gold medal?

MORGAN: Do you think you can win gold?

LIUKIN: I think so. You know, I honestly don't think I'd be doing it if I didn't think that way. And I think that's the way that I've been raised. My dad is such as perfectionist and it's the same way that I've kind of lived my life inside and outside of gymnastics, even in school -- like nothing was acceptable like all A's in school.

And I think that's the way that I was just raised. And so I really believe in this and I believe that I can do this. And the odds may not be in my favor but I definitely want to prove to everyone that you still can compete when you're 22 years old.

MORGAN: If you win gold at this Olympics and achieve the last remaining great ambition for you, what then? I mean, would you consider completely retiring? Would you like to continue in some other form in gymnastics?

LIUKIN: I was thinking I would retire until my dad, who coaches me still, said maybe you should compete at another world championships after and do another year. That thought never entered my mind until he said that. But, you know, I don't know really.

I don't know what these next few months will bring me. I don't know what the Olympics will bring me. I do want to go to school. I'm hoping to move to New York and go to NYU starting in January. I've put that on hold for about five years now.

Education has always been very important to my family. So no matter what your accomplishments are in the sport of gymnastics, I believe that that's -- you know, will get you pretty far with an education will get you far.

So, I don't know gymnastics competitively will be in my future. I definitely know I'll be involved in the sport for the rest of my life, hopefully maybe creating a show or tour or maybe a summer camp or I'm not sure I would coach. I leave that to my dad. I don't have the patience for that.

MORGAN: He's obviously pretty good, your dad.

LIUKIN: He is. Apparently so. I mean --

MORGAN: Living proof.

LIUKIN: Yes, living proof.

MORGAN: What do you think it takes to be a champion, to be an Olympic champion?

LIUKIN: I think it obviously it takes a lot of hard work. But a lot of discipline, a lot of courage, motivation. You know, it's very hard to find that sometimes, especially on those days that I don't get out of bed or if it's raining outside and you just want to stay under your covers. But I never took a single holiday off. I was the only one in the gym with my dad on Christmas Day, on Christmas Eve, New Year's Eve, New Year's.

MORGAN: You trained Christmas Day?

LIUKIN: Yes. But --

MORGAN: Did you ever feel like you've missed out on a youth? And although you've achieved great success, when you see your friends or people, whatever, all going out, gallivanting, having a good time, there must be moments when you think I wish I could just got and get wrecked tonight.


MORGAN: Aren't there? Maybe there aren't. Maybe that's what makes a good champion.

LIUKIN: I don't know. I just never really felt that those kinds of moments are worth it. I mean, I feel like when you're standing there getting a gold medal, nothing can compare to that moment, not a single night of going out, not a single night of hanging out with your friends.

I think the moment like that and the people that will be interested in your life for the rest of your life are going to understand. And they will be there for the rest of your life. And so, you know, it's finding those people and the friends and obviously your family will be there.

But it's those friends that they support you and that they know you, you know, have to be in bed at 9:30 or 10:00 o'clock every night, and you can't go out on the weekends. But I think it definitely takes sacrifices and if you do want to be the greatest in what you do, you have to sacrifice your personal life and your outside sport life. But I think it's totally worth it.

MORGAN: Who are your great role models?

LIUKIN: You know, it sounds so --

MORGAN: In any sport? It doesn't have to be gymnastics.

LIUKIN: Right. And besides my parents, because I just feel like not just in the sport, but what they did -- and obviously because they are my parents, but looking it from the side, sort of the things that they've done and just walking into that gym every single morning at 7:30 and realizing when it's dark and just walking in and knowing that they created this with their own hands and they moved to this country with absolutely nothing and created this.

MORGAN: What do you say to young Americans who've maybe gone astray, you know, through whatever reasons -- bad parenting, bad education, live in a rough area, whatever it may be, and they're looking to the Olympics --

LIUKIN: Right.

MORGAN: -- just casually on television, what you can say to try and get them to take a different path?

LIUKIN: I think it's really important to understand that, you know, you can achieve anything that you set your mind to. And as long you do have something in your mind that's a goal or a dream, then you can achieve it. You know, don't ever be afraid to be told that you can't do something.

And I think that I learned that at a very young age. So many people told me that I wouldn't be strong enough or I would be too tall or I'd be too old and this and that.

And, you know, I think that as long as you can sit down and tell yourself that this is what I'm going to achieve and this is what my goal is, no matter what it takes. So you have to be willing to do whatever it takes. And you have to work hard every single day. And if it is 365 days a year for five years, and whatever those circumstances are, you have to be able to do that and not be afraid.

Because I think being scared is one of those things that can really go from one side to the other side, you have to be fearless in whatever it is you do and not just flipping on a 4-inch-wide beam, but it's also taking chances in your life and making so that you live your life without any regrets.

MORGAN: It's been a real pleasure.

LIUKIN: Thank you so much.

MORGAN: Best of luck in London, my hometown. I think you're going to have a good feeling. You've got that icy look about you when you talk about winning.

LIUKIN: Thank you.

MORGAN: I think that's what it takes.

LIUKIN: I hope so. Fingers crossed.

MORGAN: Good luck.

LIUKIN: Thank you.


MORGAN: Next, a young man from the Bronx who was born to an Olympian. An incredible story of John Orozco. Coming up next.


MORGAN: More of the incredible stories of America's Olympic hopefuls, one that stands out of so many is that of John Orozco. His childhood wasn't easy. His family is struggling to make ends meet in the Bronx. But with his parent's determination and his own drive, John is now on the gymnastics team and one that placing to the gold.

He's an extraordinary young man, as I found out.


MORGAN: Now, John, you have been described as a 5'4" power ball.



OROZCO: That's news.

MORGAN: Is that true?

OROZCO: I guess, yes. MORGAN: Is that how you see yourself?

OROZCO: I see myself as a normal 19-year-old kid.

MORGAN: Who just happens to be a gold medal contending power ball?

OROZCO: Yes, I guess.

MORGAN: I mean you say normal, this is what one of your coaches for World Cup gymnastics, Jason Hebert, said about you: "I've never seen any athlete with so much raw talent. John is like the Michael Jordan and LeBron James of gymnastics. He's that good."

OROZCO: I never thought anyone would -- would compare me to those two great, you know, athletes, the sport that they represent. You know, I'm just -- I'm just trying to follow my dream and do what I love to do.

MORGAN: Let's go back to the Bronx, where you're from in New York. It's not the best place in the world to grow up. Everyone would agree with that. Yet it's produced many outstanding people.

Tell me about your early life in the Bronx. What was it like?

OROZCO: Growing up in the Bronx, especially as a gymnast, it's not easy.

I got teased a lot as a kid. You know, a lot back-handed jokes, a lot negativity that was thrown at me when I was a kid. And --

MORGAN: What was you being a gymnast mean in the Bronx? I mean, what did they tease you about? What were they saying to you?

OROZCO: They would -- they would say things like, wow, a gymnast, what are you, gay? Or, oh, that's nice, you go -- you go around slipping like a cheerleader? Like what is that going to do?

MORGAN: It wasn't masculine enough for them?

OROZCO: No. Definitely not the masculine thing to be into.

MORGAN: And yet the irony of what you do is it is one of the toughest disciplines --


MORGAN: -- in terms of physical strength --

OROZCO: It is one of the toughest sports in the world.

MORGAN: -- in world of sports.

OROZCO: Yes. And it's just that they didn't understand what it took to be a gymnast -- to be a world class gymnast. They -- they didn't understand. And I knew that. That's why I wouldn't get mad. I would just simply say, OK, I can throw -- I can throw a baseball. I can shoot a basketball and can kick a soccer ball.

Let's see your back hand springs. And then their eyes would be like, what?

And I said now you understand, because it's just that they can't relate because some -- it's not something that everyone can do, can just go in the gym and do double flips, double twists and stick.

MORGAN: I mean I watch it and I can't imagine why anybody would want to do it. The level of --


MORGAN: -- strength, danger, all of it. I mean look you guys are crazy.

OROZCO: It is a little hard.

MORGAN: What -- why gymnastics? Why do it? Was there something you saw on television? Was there somebody out there that you idolized?

Why gymnastics?

OROZCO: I love gymnast -- I -- I took gymnastics because it's one of the most challenging sports in the world. And that's what I love about it. It's such a great challenge.

And I remember watching the 2000 Olympic Games and seeing -- seeing the gymnastics team compete. And remember, I want to do that one day, you know?

I remember sitting with my family and thinking, wow, that's -- this is the greatest that you'll ever see, you know?

And then my -- my dad got me into it when I was eight years old. He -- he works for the Department of Sanitation. So he came in. He was on the job one day in -- in the city. He picked up a flier for free gymnastics tryouts in a nearby gym -- gymnasium in the city.

So he brought it home and I was already in Tae-kwon do, competing and stuff. And so he brought it home. He discussed it with my mother over dinner. And the next day, he brought me into the gym.

And I remember before I even got into the gym, I can hear the -- the noises, like the bar squeaking and the people landing on their feet on the mats and the -- the loud slamming noises. And I got so excited walking in. And --

MORGAN: You just knew --

OROZCO: I just knew --

MORGAN: -- this was going to be you?

OROZCO: I just felt it. I knew it was -- it was happening. And my dad spoke to the owner. And I was eight years old. And the gym class was supposed to be for nine year olds and up. And he said, I'm sorry, we can't have your son try out, he's not old enough.

And he said, come on, please, he loves -- he loves doing flips. Everywhere I go, he's trying to do hand stands. And he said, just give him a chance.

So he gave me that chance. And I'm so grateful that he did, because that's the moment I knew I loved this sport and --

MORGAN: Your parents were very dedicated to you, because your mom used to drive you, often for a three-hour commute, from the Bronx, one of the roughest parts of New York, to Westchester, the posh end.


MORGAN: Which is two completely different worlds.

OROZCO: Yes, it is.

MORGAN: How did you feel as you were in the transit, sometimes, like I say, for three hours?

I mean, going from one place to somewhere completely different?

OROZCO: Yes, I'm glad I got to train in Westchester.


OROZCO: And going back to the Bronx, the Bronx is just -- it's my home. It's where I live. I feel comfortable in.

MORGAN: What are the good things about the Bronx? I mean, it gets a bad rap.

OROZCO: Yes, it does get a bad rap. Well, I'm so --

MORGAN: What are the good parts of you that you think come from being a Bronx guy?

OROZCO: I mean, well, look at my parents. They raised me to be the man that I am now. And I mean with people like that in the Bronx, you can't be that bad, right?


OROZCO: And it's -- it's not so bad. My neighborhood is -- is by the -- the Bronx River, by the water. I can see Manhattan across the street -- across the river, actually. And I mean, it's only as bad as you make it out to be.

And going from there to Westchester, it's a lot different. People are different. But I saw them all as people. It's all the same to me. You know, I treat everyone with respect. I treat everyone the same.

MORGAN: Did you get into fights with the kids in the Bronx?


MORGAN: Does everybody have to fight, for a young man growing up in the Bronx?

OROZCO: No, no, no. Not -- it's not -- it's not like a boxing match every time you walk out your house.

But we did -- it was a sad day. We were actually coming from my brother's confirmation at church on Sunday. And my brother -- my older -- one of my older brothers, his name is Emanuel. And we got into a little stiff going home. And it just spiraled out of control so quickly, I don't even really remember it. But we were -- we were going home one day -- that day and we -- it started out as an argument and then it got into a physical altercation.

And all of a sudden, I'm not even exaggerating, there were 30 guys, 20 guys that showed up and started attacking all of us. And there were only four of us. And I was 10 years old at the time. And my brother was 12, 20 and 27.

And I mean 30 versus four?

And the cops were called by pedestrians. They had saw sightings of a gun throughout the whole rumble, knives. And --

MORGAN: Knives, as well?

OROZCO: Yes. My brother -- my brother was attacked pretty badly and he had to spend a few days in the hospital.

MORGAN: He was stabbed?

OROZCO: No, thank God. But, it's --

MORGAN: What did -- what did it teach you, the incident?

OROZCO: That life is unpredictable and you can't -- you can't let -- you can't hold onto that. I let it go in the past and I've just -- I don't think about it now, because (INAUDIBLE) that we went to it. But it's not something that I keep with me, because if I did, it would destroy me.

MORGAN: You've got out of the Bronx now. You live elsewhere, you go back because your family is still there. Your parents have both suffered from ill health and stuff.

Do you see, in the future, a life for them out of the Bronx?

OROZCO: Absolutely. The whole reason that I got so serious again gymnastics was to make a better life for myself and make a better life for my family. And that's what I set out to do since I've made this commitment to myself to make it with a team and reach my goals and dreams.

And one day I'm going to do it. It's a lot of pressure, but I'll take it on.

MORGAN: They tell a very moving story of when you got your first paycheck. You came back and you gave it all --


MORGAN: -- to your parents and said that's to help pay off the mortgage.

OROZCO: Right.

MORGAN: They -- they both found that a profoundly moving moment of their lives and a kind of vindication of all the effort they'd made for you, that they'd produced this kid who would do that.

OROZCO: I -- ever since I was little, the -- the number one priority for me was helping out my family any way I can, because I knew we weren't doing good financially. And I remember, I was -- I started bagging at the grocery store when I was 13 years old and getting like, just little chump change, you know, and bringing it home and said -- and saying, oh, check out this money. It was like three bucks in total.


OROZCO: And I actually started working when I was 14, at my gym. And I brought home that first paycheck, and I said, here, mommy, here's -- put this toward the mortgage and everything, because I don't -- I don't care what I was doing or what was happening around me, all I cared about was my family and making sure that everything was OK.

And that's the reason why I do gymnastics now, to make a better life for them. And I want to make sure that no one in my family has to ever worry about things like that again. I don't want any more financial worries. I don't want any kind of hurting to be restricting us in that way. And that's why -- that's what keeps me motivated in gymnastics.

MORGAN: John, just hold that thought and we'll come back in a moment, after the break.



MORGAN: Back now with pride of America. A special on the Olympic athletes who will compete in London. Before the break, I talked to John Orozco, gymnast in a class all by himself.

Here's more of that interview.


MORGAN: What does it feel like to be as good as you are at what you do?

OROZCO: I would say it takes a lot of willpower and a lot of sacrifice and a lot of self-motivation, because you're not going to walk in every day and feel like it's a great day and you want to get all this stuff done and feeling like all jolly, jolly, you know?

MORGAN: I mean because you're, what are you, 19?

OROZCO: Nineteen.

MORGAN: Most kids your age -- I mean my -- I've got an older son who's 19. He loves going out clubbing in London, having fun, drinking a few beers, chatting up a few women. This is not a world that you're allowed to do, right?

OROZCO: It's -- it's not. But the way I see it, I'm chasing my dreams right now and I'm doing what I love to do. And there will be time for that after I achieve my goals and dreams.

So for right now, I'm focusing on what I need to do so that in the future, I can enjoy all those things.

MORGAN: If you perform at your absolute best, what can you achieve in London?

OROZCO: I think if I do my absolute best, I think -- I think I might have a chance of being on the medal stand and all around. And that's my -- that is my goal. And also, as well as my individual goal, it's the same as the team goal. We want to get -- we want to get up there, the Americans up through at least on the podium stand.

MORGAN: And if you win a gold -- how is that going to make you feel, a boy from the Bronx winning an Olympic Gold Medal, standing on that podium, the American national anthem playing?

OROZCO: That would be a dream come true. That would mean that everything that I have suffered through has just finally been worth it. And I think that would -- that would be the moment that my life would change.

MORGAN: It would be an emotional moment for you, huh?

OROZCO: Yes, definitely an emotional moment for me.

MORGAN: And your parents?

OROZCO: And my family. Yes. That would mean my life has changed and that would mean my family's life would change right in just that moment.

MORGAN: Now, you're a good-looking young man. I'm told that you're one of the more popular characters on the Olympic team with the ladies.

OROZCO: Really?



MORGAN: That's what -- that's what I'm hearing.


MORGAN: How are you going to deal with the attention that comes your way when you compete in the Olympics and possibly win a gold medal?

Are you ready for the screaming women chasing you down the street?

OROZCO: Oh, yes.


OROZCO: My philosophy for women, I'm not -- I'm not going to go out there and trying to find, you know, the love of my life. I think if it's meant to happen, it'll happen. She'll find me or I'll find her. So I'm not looking for her, you know?

But the whole -- all the media and every -- all the attention, I think it's going to be -- it's going to be fun, you know. I can't let it stress me out.

MORGAN: And if you win the gold, can you imagine all those guys who teased you back in the Bronx, are you going to be thinking of their pictures, of their faces?

OROZCO: No, no, no, no, no, no.

MORGAN: Shoot up in your face and you stand there?

OROZCO: No, never.

MORGAN: Just a tiny little bit of told you?



MORGAN: Come on. It will be a little bit, won't it?

OROZCO: No, I don't think so. I'm not a very vengeful person. I don't -- I don't keep grudge --

MORGAN: I don't mean vengeful, but more like vindication.

OROZCO: Maybe a little bit. It will just be more about now you understand. Now you understand, you know, not so much I told you so, you know?

But I think -- I think people have realized now. Everyone that's told me that I shouldn't do what I was trying to do or try to tease me about what I -- what I loved and try to -- try to take what I love and crush my spirit experience with it.

I think they all -- they all realize now, you know. This isn't -- this was never a joke. This was never something to be teased about.

MORGAN: A final question. What does being an American?

OROZCO: Being an American?


OROZCO: It means that I get to enjoy life in the best country in the world, as I see it. And going -- on my way to the Olympics and being -- being able to wear that USA on my back proudly and represent my whole country, not just myself, my whole country, my family, everyone is -- it's going to be a great honor. And I can't wait.

MORGAN: John, all the best.

OROZCO: Thank you.

MORGAN: See you in London.


MORGAN: Next, young world champion Aly Raisman, going to the prom, she's now heading to London. I'll talk to this Olympic hopeful coming up.


MORGAN: London Games are just around the corner. Fast approaching and America's greatest athletes cannot wait. I've been talking to these superstars tonight. One of them is gymnast Aly Raisman, who's a young girl who plans on delivering a gold medal performance this summer.

Here's my interview with Aly.


MORGAN: Aly, how are you?

ALY RAISMAN, OLYMPIC GYMNAST: I'm very good. How are you?

MORGAN: You're 17 years old, but in gymnastics terms, I mean, you're quite old, right?

RAISMAN: Yes, I'm definitely, I guess, considered old for gymnastics. But you have to be 16 to go to the Olympics, so I'm going to be 18 soon, so I guess two years over what is considered young.

MORGAN: Your first Olympics. How you feeling?

RAISMAN: I'm feeling very confident. The Olympic trials are in the end of June, so I'm very excited and a little bit anxious. But I just can't wait, I've been working so hard. So I'm so excited.

MORGAN: And you have the hardest handshake any 17-year-old, male or female, I have ever experienced.

RAISMAN: Oh, well, I do a lot of conditioning. My coach (INAUDIBLE) they always have us do a lot of strength, so we're really powerful. But I've never gotten that compliment before.


MORGAN: Well, you're just ridiculously strong, but you have to be, I guess, right? Some of the disciplines you do are incredibly tough physically.

RAISMAN: Yes, definitely. I mean, I guess you need a lot of hand strength for bars, too. So maybe that's why, I'm used to just grabbing onto the bar really tight. So I'm kind of just used to that. But for other events, like beam and vault and floor, you need a lot of strength for that as well.

MORGAN: The amount of training you do for this kind of thing must be absurd, it's just relentless, isn't it?

RAISMAN: Yes, definitely. I do about seven to seven and a half hours a day. So it's a ton of training and it's a lot of hard work, but it's definitely paying off and I still love it. So I'm just enjoying what I've been doing.

MORGAN: Seeing all your mates off down, I don't know where they go, the night clubs, having fun, listening to the music, going out, eating bad food, having donuts, do you miss any of that?

RAISMAN: I mean, I used to miss it. I had to sacrifice my senior year, and I'm -- but I'm still going to go to prom and graduation. But I'm finishing the year online. So it was definitely hard. But to be able to say that I'm an Olympic hopeful and to be able to travel and be on the show with you and do so many cool experiences, I wouldn't trade it for anything. And it's just such an honor to be able to compete for the United States.

MORGAN: You don't feel you're missing anything?

RAISMAN: No, I don't at all.

MORGAN: And you get -- you get to do school online.

RAISMAN: Yes, I do school online. It's a lot easier and a lot less stressful because I can choose when I want to do it. And in between my workouts, I can do a little bit of homework and also rest.

MORGAN: Is winning an Olympic gold for you the absolute number one dream? RAISMAN: Yes, definitely, winning the Olympic gold, it just gives me chills thinking about it, and I've been dreaming about that ever since I was a little girl. So to be able to accomplish that is just so surreal. And every day when I'm in the gym, that's all I think about it.

MORGAN: Is it literally all seven hours a day you're thinking about gold medals, the podium, the American anthem?

RAISMAN: Yes, definitely, especially in the car ride to and from gym I find myself thinking out a lot, just visualizing what the Olympics would be like and just having such great role models. When I go to Texas, I always see the other girls, so it's so inspiring to see what they've accomplished, and I definitely want to be there someday, too.

MORGAN: So any -- any boys on the horizon? Are you allowed to have boyfriends?

RAISMAN: I mean, right now I'm not, I don't have a boyfriend, but maybe after the summer I --


MORGAN: So that's banned before the Olympics?

RAISMAN: Yes. I mean, I still talk to boys, but I don't have a boyfriend. But I'm going to prom with my -- one of my guy friends, Jamie (ph).

MORGAN: Is he like your boyfriend?

RAISMAN: No, he's not like my boyfriend, but he's a very nice guy and he's one of my good friends.

MORGAN: So, you get to go to the prom, and you've all graduated. So that's important, right?

RAISMAN: Yes, that's very important to me. It's really great that I'm able to have such a great gymnastics career and also be able to experience the regular school life as well.

MORGAN: So your mom's here with you, who looks almost exactly like you do, only with reddish hair. How important is your mom to you? Because you started all this when you went to a mommy and me class when you were 3 years old, right?

RAISMAN: Yes. My mom's so important to me. She's so supportive. She's like my best friend. We have so much fun together. And I love to be able to travel with her, because we get to just have a great time together and she always makes me laugh. So without her support I wouldn't have been able to do anything.

MORGAN: Are you a good loser?

RAISMAN: I do not like to lose at all, but it motivates me. And I believe everything happens for a reason. So if I don't do well or get second or third place, then it just motivates me to do better the next time.

MORGAN: What does it mean to you to be an American in the Olympics?

RAISMAN: It means everything to me just to be able to represent the United States. It's so amazing and so crazy. And just to be on that team and just to be able to have the USA on my back means everything to me.

MORGAN: Aly, best of luck.

RAISMAN: Thank you.

MORGAN: I think you're going to win gold. I've got a funny feeling about you. You seem very determined to me.

RAISMAN: Thank you.

MORGAN: Good luck.

RAISMAN: Thanks.


MORGAN: Next, a preview of my surprising interview with Olympic legend Michael Phelps.


MORGAN: Michael Phelps has gone into the history books. He's won 16 Olympics medals, but he's not done yet. Phelps wants to add more to the collection in London. His desire to win is huge.

I sat down with Phelps a remarkably candid interview. What he said will surprise you as much as it surprised me. We're going to bring that full interview in just a few weeks, but here's a sneak preview.


MORGAN: You've been answering questions all day, and if I just repeat the same old nonsense you've been asked all day, then you're going to give me less time.

PHELPS: I'll be just like a tape recorder.

MORGAN: I'll take you at your words. So, I'm going to ask you the question I ask a lot of the guests.


MORGAN: And I bet you haven't been asked this today. How many times have you been properly in love?


MORGAN: That's all for us tonight. And I see you back on Monday when I talk to Jesse Ventura who can win an Olympic gold medal just for arguing.