That’s right: tarantula.
Did you know that World p-bars champ Danell Leyva has a pet tarantula? Did you know that its name is Rosie and it lives in his room? The Associated Press’s Nancy Armour did, and when she told me, I had to know more.
It’s not very gymnastics-related, but it was fascinating (and, OK, a little creepy) to quiz Leyva on the care and feeding of tarantulas in Tokyo. Hopefully it took his mind off zinging his chin on high bar during the men’s all-around final, too.
Here’s how the conversation with the conversation went down:
Q: How did you come to have a pet tarantula?
Leyva: “One of my friends gave it to me for my birthday last year. I’d always wanted one. [Laughs] It’s very unorthodox. And I play with it — I’ll like have it in my hand…”
Q: You play with it…
Q: What does it feel like to have a tarantula crawling across your hand?
Leyva: “The complete opposite of what you think it would feel like. You’d think it was really heavy, but when it walks across your hand you’re like, ‘oh, that’s awesome!'”
Q: Like a spider?
Leyva: “It’s like, really light. It’s very unexpected. Once you carry one, your perception of a tarantula changes a lot.”
Q: How big is it?
Leyva: “The size of my hand.”
Q: (Note: At this point in the tape, there’s the sound of your GymExaminer gasping and letting out what I hope was a very contained girlish scream. Leyva, who may or may not have heard sounds like that before when discussing his tarantula, was unfazed) It’s the SIZE OF YOUR HAND?
Leyva: “Her name is Rosie.”
Q: How do you know it’s a her?
Leyva: “Because the females are like, puffier, hairier, and the males are lanky and skinny and ugly.” [laughs]
Q: Why a tarantula and not a snake or a bird or a puppy?
Leyva: “We have four dogs actually, but…I don’t know, tarantulas are just so cool. You know, they’re actually very fragile. You drop them from three and a half feet and they can die. And then when they shed skin and stuff like that, one of their legs can stay stuck in the shed skin.”
Q: They SHED SKIN?
Leyva: “Yeah. They molt. It’s actually cool — the first three days I had it, I woke up and it’s on its back and I was like, ‘Oh my God! It’s dead already!’ But then I read the paper that they gave me, and realized it was just molting and was like, ‘Oh, thank God.'”
Q: So it’s just roaming free in your room?
Leyva: “No, no, I have it in a little cage. [Laughs] They’re cool because they’re very low maintenance. You can keep it in a very small enclosure, and they actually prefer that, and you feed it — I don’t know how often I feed it — but it only eats crickets.”
Q: What happens if it bites you? (Here I was having visions of a swollen hand that couldn’t grip a ring or a pommel or do a giant on high bar for days)
Leyva: “It has like the same amount of poison as a bee sting, so…”
Q: It hasn’t ever bitten you, has it?
Leyva: “Oh, no. I’m smart with it.”
Q: How does the rest of your family feel about it?
Leyva: [Smiles] “They absolutely don’t like it at all.”
Q: I can’t imagine.
Leyva: “But I mean, eh…whatever.”
Q: Who’s taking care of it while you’re in Tokyo?
Leyva: “You don’t like have to take care of it. You just leave it there.”
Q: Leave it some crickets?
Leyva: “Literally, it eats like once every month or so.”
Q: You must have left a lot of crickets.
Leyva: “Nah. They’re actually not strong at all, so it’s impossible for it to escape from where I have it.”
Q: Do you want any other animals?
Leyva: “Nah. I’m good with just a tarantula.”
Follow The Gymnastics Examiner on Facebook or Twitter, or click “Subscribe” above to recieve the latest gymnastics news and results via e-mail.