At the age of 6, Dalton was introduced to gymnastics and within two years he had committed himself to the sport in order to pursue his dream. Spending countless hours at the gym his parents bought, Dalton worked relentlessly with the same goal in mind every day — represent the United States of America in the Olympics.
Through the years, Dalton took in the Summer Games every four years. Watching the top athletes in gymnastics from around the world compete in the Olympics, Dalton’s dream went from Sydney, Australia to Athens, Greece and Beijing, China. All the while, his sights were set on London in 2012 and the XXX Olympiad. This time, Dalton would not watch from thousands of miles away at home.
Invited to the U.S. Olympic Trials, Dalton took advantage of the opportunity to make his childhood desire real, earning a spot on the five-man roster that would represent Team USA in London. While the U.S. did not medal in the team competition and Dalton placed fifth in the floor exercise, the moment was a dream come true.
“It was a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” Dalton said. “Being able to be over there and competing for your country, it’s something that not a lot of people get to experience so I really just tried to enjoy it all and soak up the whole experience. It was just an amazing time to be there. The whole team that was there was just a great group of guys so I felt honored to be able to go over there and compete with those guys for my country.”
Now Dalton, 20, is returning to the place where he first learned the basics of gymnastics and his dream grew into a reality to say thank you to those that helped him along the way.
“I’m just trying to do what I can to give back to all the people who supported me and helped me get to where I wanted to go and be able to compete in the Olympic Games,” Dalton said. “I’ve had an amazing amount of support through it all and especially during the Olympics and I just want to be able to show my appreciation for that.”
There will be plenty of people who will want to say thank you to Dalton as well, as he obtained a large fan base during the Games, including over 84,000 followers on Twitter. The 2009 Spanish Springs High School graduate got a small sampling of that support as he returned home to Nevada. First came the City of Sparks honoring him by declaring August 13 ‘Jake Dalton Day,’ followed by a meet-and-greet at Gymnastics Nevada. On Wednesday, Dalton will be presented with a key to the city of Fernley, where he grew up prior to moving to Sparks.
“The support is great,” Dalton said. “To be able to come to home to that, and even when we were there, we noticed all the support that we had. We gained a ton of followers on Twitter and everybody tweeted us saying good luck and that they were proud of us. It really makes you realize how many people are out there watching and actually care about and respect what you’re doing. It’s great to come home and be able to interact with them in person and be able to thank them and really appreciate all the support that they’ve given. It’s just amazing just to realize how many people actually support us and cheer us on.”
Once Dalton is done showing his gratefulness, he will return to the gym and what he does best. Forgoing his last year of eligibility, Dalton will travel around the country with teammates Jonathan Horton and John Orozco along with the members of the women’s team and others in the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. After the tour, Dalton will focus on turning pro and set his sights to the Summer Games of 2016 in Rio de Janeiro.
“As soon as London ended, that was the next goal,” Dalton said. “That’s the long-term goal. You have short-term goals between then, but I’m getting back in the gym and getting ready to go. I just want to keep that long-term goal of Rio in the front of my mind.
“This experience is something that will motivate all of us in different ways. The Olympics were such a great experience and it was just so fun to be able to go out there and compete with all the other athletes. That’s just one way. Another way is that we went out there with a gold in mind and we didn’t accomplish that and we know we can. So that will keep the fire going under our feet and get us back in the gym training and learning new things. That’ll keep us motivated for the next four years, at least.”
Just as he did as a kid, Dalton continues to dream of gold. Now though, there are countless children dreaming of their own Olympic futures thanks to him.