Five Olympic hopefuls with Oklahoma ties will soon begin their fight for a spot to compete on the U. S. Olympic team this summer in London.
OU junior Jake Dalton along with four former Sooners in Chris Brooks, Jonathan Horton, Steven Legendre and Alex Naddour will compete in the 2012 U.S. Olympic Trials that begin Thursday in San Jose, Calif.
The five Sooners make up one-third of the 15 man U.S. Olympic Trials field all vying for a spot on the five-man United States roster.
Dalton, the 2012 NCAA all-around champion and 11-time All-American, looks to become the first Sooner to make the Olympic squad while still in school since Bart Conner.
The junior recently won national titles at the Visa USA Championships on vault and floor for the second year in a row. Heading into the biggest meet of his life, Dalton knows what he has to do to advance to London.
"We have to be confident and trust in our gymnastics," said Dalton. "We've done everything we can in the gym and it's time to go out and show it off again. I did pretty well at Visa's so it's time to basically go and do the same thing, fixing a few mistakes here and there. I've been hitting my sets and doing them pretty clean so I feel I can show that I'm consistent and my routines are at a high level, even with the pressure. I'm not trying to over think everything too much."
Horton who competed for the Sooners from 2005-2008 is the only other OU gymnast in recent history to participate in the Olympics as he was a part of the 2008 team.
Chris Brooks was an OU letter winner on the team from 2006-2009, Alex Naddour competed for the Sooners in 2010-2011 and Steven Legendre was on the team from 2008-2011. All five Sooners are current members of the U.S. National Team and advanced to the U.S. Olympic Trials after their performances at the 2012 Visa Championships earlier this month.
The U.S. representatives in London will be determined by the Trials, subject to the approval of the U.S. Olympic Committee's board of directors.
Dalton realizes the importance of this week's Trials and is motivated to fulfill his childhood dream.
"This is something I've been dreaming about since I was a little kid," said Dalton. "It would just mean everything in the world to me. All the hard work would start to be paying off. That's not where it would end though. It all pays off when Team USA goes and wins the Gold. It would mean so much to me, my family, teammates the fans and coaches."
Oklahoma has produced three Olympians in men's gymnastics and has been represented in the past two Summer Olympic Games by Guard Young in 2004 and Horton in 2008, both under current head coach Mark Williams.
Legendre, who competed for OU from 2008-2011, served this past season as an undergraduate volunteer assistant and trained with OU Head Coach Mark Williams in preparation for the Olympic qualifying process. The 2011 Nissen-Emery Award winner and 2009 NCAA all-around champion, Legendre owns Oklahoma records for career NCAA individual titles at six, a mark previously held by Olympian Horton.
Dalton feels honored to be a part of the prestigious history that the Sooners boast.
"The history just speaks for itself," said Dalton. "Obviously OU is a great place to be, a great place to train and compete, a great place to go to school and continue your gymnastics career. With so many high level athletes come through here and with the amount of success that Mark has already had, we're continuing to do the same thing. It shows everybody that's looking to come here what you can get out of it and what you can become."
The first day of men's gymnastics competition will be broadcast live on June 28 from 4:30 to 7 p.m. as well as at 3 p.m. on June 30 for the final day of trials.