An Olympic hopeful shatters stereotypes
The Olympics come a little earlier than usual…the Opening Ceremony is scheduled for late July. As the London Games approach, we’ll look at some athletes with Oklahoma ties. The University of Oklahoma’s men’s gymnastics program, one of the best in the nation, has a few competitors hoping to get a ticket to London…
Jake Dalton is greeted by two dogs in his comfortable two bedroom bungalow. He just got out of his last class of the day – Native American Music – on a pleasantly warm spring day. The afternoon is approaching, and the second practice of the day is only a couple minutes away…
It starts with the Drake’s “Take Care” nudging Jake awake at 5:45 AM. Practice for an hour, lift weights, practice again and fit classes and meals all in about 12 hours. It didn’t have to be like this though. The Reno, Nevada native faced a decision as a kid just learning his multiplication tables. Baseball or gymnastics?
“I think just being a little kid, I don’t know why but I just decided gymnastics. I get bored really easy. So being in gymnastics, I can learn all new skills, you never stop learning.”
Since then, the junior at OU has traveled the world competing with Team USA, ascended to the top of the unofficial NCAA rankings, and grabbed National Champion trophies by the handful. You can discard any ideas of what a men’s gymnast does for fun.
The clean purring of a Honda motorcycle as he gets ready to ride off to practice. Or there’s the rally car, complete with spoiler on the back, when he wants to be a little less adventurous. Don’t forget about the shimmering diamonds in Jake’s ears…
“I wear them every once and a while, my girlfriend actually likes them so that’s some of the reason I wear them. I guess if you kinda knew me before, it’s not really my personality, but it was just kinda something fun to do with some of my teammates.”
Jake shuttles between practice and competitions with OU and Team USA. That can make him more than what was already a long list: Jake the student, Jake the gymnast, Jake the college guy, now Jake the constant traveler. During the school year, it isn’t out of the ordinary for Jake to take off for a Team USA meet, only to come back for a NCAA competition. And that doesn’t leave a lot of time for grocery shopping.
“I actually have three dozen eggs that I buy at Walmart cause I eat a lot of eggs, so I can’t just buy a few a few of them I like to buy a lot otherwise I’m going back and forth to Walmart all the time.”
Eggs for breakfast, that’s pretty standard. What about dinner?
“We cooked some pork chops, some steak and chicken. And then we had mashed potatoes, broccoli, cauliflower and also asparagus kinda for us and our girlfriends.”
He’s not on the famed Michael Phelps diet, but constant motion burns the calories pretty quick. It’s a frenetic schedule ahead of the Olympics. They announce the team July first, and just a couple weeks later, fly out. Jake’s in the running, but only 5 make the team, instead of the usual 6. Olympics or not, you might just hear his name mentioned by announcers at the Games. After all, he’s an innovator…
“But I did it from upper arm, so it’s still a different move, but it’s similar to another. So people were just calling it a Suarez, like upper arm Suarez or something and after I did it, everybody just started calling it a Dalton so I thought it was pretty cool.”
Here’s Jake’s coach at OU, Mark Williams.
“Because he was first to do, it gets to be named the Dalton forever. Whenever he’s doing it in the gym, I go ‘Yeah, the Dalton was terrible. You really need to work on your skill Jake.”
Of the six events for men’s gymnastics, Jake was All America in five of them. That’s on top of individual NCAA titles in the all around and parallel bars. In 1999, Jake chose gymnastics. Now, the words London 2012 hang over his bedroom light switch.