Jacob Dalton says he remembers what it felt like the first time he walked into the Olympic Stadium during the 2012 London Olympics.
“[We] looked around the whole stadium and basically felt at home there… Our palms started sweating and our hearts started beating,” Dalton says. “I had been looking forward to that my whole life.”
Dalton, a member of the Sooners gymnastics team and multidisciplinary studies senior, did not win an automatic entry to the U.S. team after the qualifiers, but the U.S. Olympic Committee granted him a spot on the team.
“I was really excited to be named to that but it was also a bittersweet moment just because a lot of my friends and teammates were in that room that didn’t make the team also,” Dalton says.
Brittany Borman, health and exercise science senior, had been preparing for this moment since the age of 6, when she had her parents time her as she raced around obstacle courses she created. Little did she know her childhood hobby would eventually place her in the Olympics.
In fact, her mom had to convince her to move her original wedding plans in the event that she or teammate Tia Brooks, senior, qualified for the Olympics. In the end, she exceeded her own best distance for javelin throw in the finals of the Olympics qualifier.
“It was a blessing for sure,” Borman says. “I wasn’t expecting that at all and to hit [the Olympic ‘A’ standard of 61 m] on the last throw of the year was just unbelievable.”
Jared Frayer, assistant wrestling coach, had originally intended to retire from wrestling, but he made a comeback to try his hand at his third Olympic trials competition.
This time, Frayer ended up beating Brent Metcalf, who had beat him in the qualifiers during the 2008 trials.
“It was something that I just had visualized and seen a million times, and it was quite the moment,” Frayer says. “It was probably the pinnacle of my wrestling career.”
After packing up their equipment and gear, Dalton, Borman and Frayer headed for London and the Olympic Village.
“Mainly at that point it’s just a mental game because you’re physically ready to go,” Dalton says.
Upon arrival at the Olympic Village, Dalton says the atmosphere was hectic, with a mass of people arriving for check-in all at the same time. He says the cafeteria was a central place for all athletes to gather.
Borman said she even had the chance to meet Kobe Bryant and Bruce Jenner, who she looks up to as an athlete. Frayer met Kevin Durant and James Harden during his stay in the Olympic Village, and Dalton had the opportunity to meet idol Jordan Jovtchev.
“It’s really cool to be able to be on same playing field as them because they’re at the highest level of their game, and so are we,” Dalton says.
Before these Sooner athletes tested their skills during their competitions, they represented the United States of America at the Opening Ceremonies with fellow athletes, decked out in red, white and blue, complete with navy blue berets.
“To be the guy… walking out with our flag in the Opening Ceremonies was something that I’ll never forget and was one of the prouder moments of my life, just knowing the significance of representing your country and being surrounded by the best athletes in the world,” Frayer says.
Meanwhile, Dhruv Rupapara, film production junior from the University of Hertfordshire, performed during the technology portion of the Opening Ceremonies. Throughout the storyline, the lead boy and lead girl develop their love for one another with the help of social media. As they all travel through different decades, Rupapara dances alongside the lead boy. He also whips out a Samsung phone during the British punk decade performance to text and snap photos.
To land this role in the Opening Ceremonies, Rupapara said he auditioned, showing off the dance skills he learned without any formal training. At first, he was only one out of 1,400 dancers included in the Tim Burners Lee portion of the ceremonies.
While practicing his routine among the other dancers, Danny Boyle, artistic director of the Opening Ceremonies, spotted him and upgraded his role to one of the lead boy’s friends.
“When I first saw him…he was in the corner there and he was looking right at me…and then he goes away and comes back with a camera and he shoves it right in my face,” Rupapara says. “I thought I was in trouble or something.”
He said working with Boyle, award-winning producer and director, was amazing, since Boyle kept calm even when he was upset by issues like tardiness. Rupapara said Boyle was quite down-to-earth, especially for someone with so much money and Oscars.
“Whenever he sees me face to face he’ll make me feel so confident about myself, and so comfortable,” Rupapara says.
Although the athletes felt pressure to perform, Rupapara felt pressure as a dancer. He said that with cameras capturing their every move, he felt the pressure to be spot-on and absolutely perfect.
Rupapara also got the star treatment and a little extra cash. He said he had his own trailer and stylist for a few days. Rupapara’s 15 minutes of fame didn’t come free, however.
In exchange for the perks of being cast in a higher role for the Opening Ceremonies, Rupapara sacrificed communication with friends, using his promotional Samsung phone in public. He also gave up privacy, allowing his social media accounts to be monitored to prevent a leak about the Opening Ceremonies to journalists.
Even though Rupapara wasn’t born in London, he said he certainly felt proud to be British during his fourth year in London.
“What other country would give you an opportunity to be part of their nation’s pride?” Rupapara says. “It was something like, ‘you’re here, so you’re one of us.’”
After settling in and continuing their workout routines in the Olympic Village fitness center, Sooner athletes competed in the qualifying rounds of the Olympics.
Borman said a prayer before competing and just focused on throwing, not even letting her pending wedding plans interrupt her focus.
In the end, Borman placed 15th in the qualifying round in London, throwing out her shot at winning a medal.
“It was crazy that it was over,” Borman says. “It all happened so fast that you don’t really get to sit there and take everything in.”
Dalton placed 5th in floor, 7th in vault and 11th in still rings.
“It was a lot of pressure just to hit my routines because I didn’t want to mess up, not only because a lot of people were watching but my team was counting on my routine and my scores to count for the team,” Dalton says. “So, I just didn’t want to let them down.”
By placing 5th in floor exercise, Dalton advanced to individual finals, where he placed 5th with a score of 15.33, and team finals, where the U.S. ranked 5th with a score of 269.952.
“[I] took a huge breath of air and knew that it was finally over,” Dalton says. “You want it to be over so you can stop stressing and worrying about it, but you also don’t want it to be over because you never know if you’ll be able to be there again, so you just try to soak up every moment that you can.”
Frayer lost his chance at taking home a medal during his match against Ali Shabanau from Belarus.
“I have to put everything in perspective and know that my girls are gonna love me and everybody that was there is gonna love me and are proud of me,” Frayer says. “So I take a lot of pride in that, but it’s still a stinging loss and something that I will think about for probably the rest of my life.”
Meanwhile, Jenn Libert, freshman from Austin, returned to London, her home in the fourth grade, to watch a few of the Olympics competitions.
Libert said options were fairly limited, since the British bought tickets based on a lottery system and ticket prices certainly weren’t cheap. Libert said Opening Ceremonies tickets alone ran around $20,000.
Her family opted instead to watch the quarterfinals of archery, the quarterfinals of ping-pong and two volleyball games.
“It was indescribable almost, because there was so much patriotism. Even walking around the city was crazy,” Libert said. “I walked around with a British flag tattoo on my face for four days and people would be like, ‘oh my gosh, that’s so cute,’ and normally that’s really weird.”
She said that during the matches, people from different countries were all in high spirits and didn’t display any negativity toward one another.
“It was just like London on steroids, almost,” Libert said. “Everyone was just so happy, and normally people in London aren’t the friendliest.”
During her stay in London for the 2012 Olympics, Libert said she had officially become addicted to the Olympics while having so much fun in her second home.
After leaving the Olympics, Frayer took life lessons with him to OU to share with Sooner wrestlers.
“If you want something and know deep down in your heart that you can achieve it, there’s nothing that can set you back,” Frayer says.
After his shot at taking home the gold at the Olympics this summer, Dalton had to make a choice between continuing to compete at the collegiate level or going pro. Although the choice was difficult, knowing he had only one more year left of NCAA status behind him helped him decide. Although he toured the U.S. as a Kelloggs Tour participant, he returned to OU in the spring to finish out his degree. He still has hopes for medaling in the Olympics in the future.
For Borman, the decision to turn pro was much easier, since she had already played out her four years of NCAA eligibility by the time the Olympics rolled around. After the Olympics she got married and decided to sign with Nike. Now, she is finishing her degree to become a physician’s assistant while training again and assisting other track and field athletes at OU.
“I’ll always be a Sooner no matter where I am, and I’m just proud that I was an Olympian while I was a Sooner,” Frayer says.