USA men’s gymnastics brimming with OU pride

NORMAN, Okla. — Jake Dalton added another color to the
usual red-and-white look he’s been fashioning at the University of Oklahoma.

With an OU backdrop and a gold-medal smile, Dalton sported a Team USA jacket —
with plenty of blue to match the standard Sooner red and white – as he talked
about his spot on the men’s Olympic gymnastics team … and his place as a
Sooner.

“It’s a special thing for our program,” Dalton said. “It says a
lot about what we have at OU.”

Yeah, quite a bit, actually.

Consider when Dalton and four others who competed at Oklahoma, head to London
for the Olympics later this month, they could play the OU alma mater as well as
the “Star Spangled Banner.” It’s the Sooners vs. the World.

Overall, 13 Sooners will be in London in a number of sports, but it’s men’s
gymnastics that has the largest contingent. Dalton, who has won four individual
NCAA titles and 13 All-American honors, is joined by Sooner Jonathan Horton, a
2008 Olympic silver medalist on the high bar and part of the team that won the
bronze medal.

Three OU products, Chris Brooks, Steven Legendre and Alex Naddour, will be in
London as alternates for the gymnastics team. Sooner coach Tom Meadows is a
Team USA assistant, while head coach Mark Williams will head to London as well
as a personal coach.

“For Jonathan Horton and Jake Dalton, I’m thrilled and excited and very
pleased with what they have done,” Williams said. “In many ways, it’s
an extension of what they have done as Sooner athletes.”

The Sooners finished second in the NCAA’s this past season, earning the runner-up
on their home floor in Norman, Okla. Now, Sooner Nation has a good reason to
get behind the locals on an international stage. Opening ceremonies are July 27
and the gymnastics competition begins July 30.

While gymnastics isn’t something that stays in the forefront of the sports
world, it does seem to capture the country’s attention every four years in the
Olympics.

“There is a certain amount of pressure to represent a sport that isn’t out
there as much as others,” Williams said. “I take that challenge to
heart and know these guys are going to be as ready as they can be. The reality
is, men’s gymnastics becomes part of the public consciousness every four years.
We’ve put up a grueling schedule just to have them make the Olympic team.

“It’s going to be a summer without a vacation.”

But a summer with a team that knows each other pretty well.

“One major thing is bringing Jonathan Horton back,” Dalton said.
“A great team leader and he’s someone who has helped me. He’s that leader
and the heart of the team. We’ll have a strong team.”

Added Legendre about the OU contingent, “We have a special bond inside and
outside the gym. It will be exciting to cheer them on. We’ve created this
awesome chemistry.”

In gymnastics, the Olympics is the highest level of competition. There’s no pro
league. There’s no weekly tour. At OU, Williams said they have trained with the
Olympics in mind.

Now the world will get to see how good the Oklahoma program is.

“You have to enjoy the journey and process,” Dalton said. “It’s
something very special and something I’ve always wanted to do. I’m waking up
early and it feels like Christmas morning. I’m ecstatic to wake up and get to
go compete for Team USA in London and represent OU along with the other
Sooners.”