By Michael Kinney
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — In April, the NCAA men’s gymnastics championships took place at Lloyd Noble Center. Led by Jake Dalton, Oklahoma came close to claiming its ninth national title in front of a raucous crowd.
As loud as those fans were, none were as animated as the former Sooner gymnasts inside the building, a group that included Jonathan Horton (2005-08), Chris Brooks (2006-09) and Steven Legendre (2008-11).
“I think it’s a special thing for our program,” Dalton said. “It just says a lot about what we have here.”
Three months later, they’ll all be back together, cheering each other on. Joined by Dalton and Alex Naddour (2010-11), all five will be a part of the U.S. men’s gymnastics team at the London Olympics.
“It’s amazing,” Legendre said. “I don’t think people from the outside realize exactly how cool that is. It’s cool for us as athletes. That experience for us is just so much more relaxed, so much more enjoyable.
“To have those guys you’ve been training with, competing with for years. We’ve all been together through this program.”
The U.S. team is comprised of five starters and three alternates. Horton and Dalton join Danell Leyva, John Orozco and Danell Leyva in the starting rotation. Brooks, Legendre and Naddour are the reserves.
“I’ve been thinking about it and I think it’s unprecedented,” OU coach Mark Williams said. “UCLA had three on the team in 1984. Since then I don’t remember more than two coming from (the same) program. I’m definitely proud of what these guys have done. I’m excited to be part of that.”
Williams has coached all five of the Sooners during his 14-year career at OU. He will be attending the Summer Games as a personal coach.
“It speaks volumes for the program we have here,” Legendre said. “The coaching staff, especially Mark, he’s been around through it all. Mark has proven he has an incredible ability to get guys ready for competition and have them at their best when they need to be at their best.”
For Williams, who will be attending his third Olympics as a coach, seeing his gymnasts succeed is the biggest thrill.
“I think it’s pretty incredible that we are talking about a select group of eight athletes and five of them are from the University of Oklahoma program,” Williams said. “It’s a dream come true for me as a coach to see their lifetime goals come to fruition and see them compete in the sport at the highest level.”
Men’s gymnastics will kick off the Olympic Games on July 28 with the qualification round.
If the U.S. is to capture a medal in London, current and former Sooners will surely play a role.
“You look at that roster and out of eight guys, five came through the fieldhouse, competed at the fieldhouse, trained in the same gym at some point,” Legendre said. “It’s pretty special. There is no other program doing stuff like that.”