By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Oct 11, 2016 at 9:02 AM

This past summer, America’s talented crop of gymnasts again drew the spotlight as they competed in the summer Olympics in Rio. Gabby Douglas, Simone Biles, Aly Raisman and their teammates were seemingly everywhere.

Now, they and many other incredible gymnasts roll into Milwaukee on Friday, Oct. 14 as part of the 2016 Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions at the BMO Harris Bradley Center.

Pretty much everyone you saw competing for the USA will be there, including those mentioned above, plus the entire men’s team, as well retired Olympians Jordyn Wieber and Nastia Liukin.

In the world of gymnastics, there is no more star-studded event.

Recently, we caught up with men’s gymnastics Olympian Jake Dalton – who competed for the USA in the 2012 and 2016 Olympics and is a four-time World Medalist – to ask him about the 2016 Olympics in Rio, about the Tour of Gymnastics and about how he prevents dizziness when flying through the air.

OnMilwaukee: Maybe you can tell me though a little bit about what the Olympic experience was like this year? This was your second Olympics, right?

Jake Dalton: Yeah, second time.

So you knew a little bit about what to expect.

Yeah, we kind of know what to expect. Every Olympics is definitely different. This one for me is more – you're obviously in a tropical place, so it's pretty cool – seemed like a little bit of a vacation, but you're there to work. It's just crazy. There's so much media around everything. There's a lot of coverage, a lot of pressure, but at the same time, it's a lot of fun. You get a lot of gear, you get to see a cool place. You're staying in the Olympic Village and just a whole different experience.

I imagine that moment when you walk out onto the floor is pretty unique.

Yeah, it's awesome especially walking out there with all the guys and especially the guys who haven't competed before so that you get to see what their experience is like and see them taking the whole, the Olympic rings everywhere and everything like that. It's just, it's kind of a dream come true for everybody at the same time.

Does the second time feel better than the first time?

Definitely, just because you kind of know what to expect. There's obviously going to be different aspects of every Olympics, but at least you have an idea of you know like I was saying the media and the schedule and getting used to everything. How it works with the bus system from the Village to the area.

That stuff's a little easier?

Yeah, you expect a little more and you know what to expect about, obviously there's things that pop up here and there, but you kind of get the gist of everything.

It must feel pretty good to be back a second, to know it wasn't a fluke.

(laughs) Yeah, right, absolutely. It's cool. Like I said, every Olympics is different in it's own way, so it's cool that you get to experience each of them and know, this is what's cool about this one and this is what's cool about that one. You can compare them.

I know there was a lot of concern about how Rio was going to perform as a city in terms of the event. Did you have any issues?

I had no issues. We had people texting us from the United States saying, "How's it going? What's it like? Is security okay?" We had no issues whatsoever. I think when we first got there they were still fixing a few things in the apartments, but for us, ours was ready and everything like that. That was pretty easy and transportation was fine; we had the bus system that worked out well. Our venue was pretty close to the Village, too, so we had no issues at all.

Did you have time to get out and explore a little?

I did afterwards a little bit. We mainly went to just the beaches because I had been to Rio before. We did the Christ the Redeemer statue and we went to all those sightseeing things, so this time we just went to the beaches and hung out.

Just had some fun.


No rest for you, right? You're right into this. Did you have a break in between?

I was home for a week and then we went out to Colorado Springs for our rehearsals for the tour. The rehearsals are pretty intense, but the show is a lot more fun. It's not like competing, where you're stressed and nervous, it's fun. We get to interact with the crowd and have fun with it.

It's less pressure?

Yeah, definitely.

What is the show like when we get there; what are we going to see?

You're going to see a lot of gymnastics, men's and women's gymnastics. You see rhythmic gymnastics, you see acrogymnastics and trampolines. It's almost like a light show combined with gymnastics, dancing, and it's a lot of fun – high energy – and just a way for us to celebrate after the Olympics with the fans.

After this, what do you do next?

Get back to training and just gear up for competition season.

Do you see another Olympics for you?

Hopefully. We'll see.

At what age do you start to think that that's not really in reach anymore?

It used to be 30, but you don't really see too many guys in the U.S. go until they're 30. Our oldest guy on this last Olympic team was 29. That's pushing it these days, especially with the level of gymnastics. I'm 25, so it's getting close, but you can try and squeeze in there. We'll see how the body holds up.

Okay, so I asked some of the young gymnastics fans if they had any questions for you and these are those questions.


How do you not get dizzy?

Amy White (of USA Gymnastics): That's a good question. I've thought that myself.

Jake Dalton: Yeah. It's a lot of practice. It's air awareness from bouncing on the trampoline since we were 5, 6 years old. Just a lot of practice and progression because you don't obviously start with all these hard crazy skills. You start with the basic ones and then you progress into the harder ones.

How old were you when you started?

I believe I was 5 or 6 years old.

That must be a difficult thing to learn, air awareness, especially when you're doing the parallel bars and things like that.

Yeah, but for me that's one of my favorite parts. I loved bouncing on the trampoline when I was a young kid, so doing that allowed me to get air awareness from a very young age, so it paid off a lot when I was older because now I understand where I am in the air whereas if you're trying to learn a skill that's pretty important to know where to twist, when to twist and where the ground is and everything like that.

That's like second nature to you now?

It gets there. You have to keep up with it. I like bouncing on trampoline as much as I can at home and stuff like that. You've got to keep up with it.

That sort of anticipates the next question which was how do you learn all of these routines?

It's practice. Repetition. And that's probably some of the hardest parts with the training you have to go through day in and day out. I was telling someone earlier, as long as you just remember why you're doing it and if you try and make it fun and set small goals for each day where if you can go and feel like you've accomplished something, then you go home satisfied and happy and ready for another day the next day.

If you hit a wall in terms of not wanting to do the repetition, how do you personally push through that?

I just, I had a conversation with one of my friends one time because I was at that point in college and he sat me down and was like, "Look you just have to trust the process." That is what I would just tell myself is trust the process because when you're in a part that isn't very fun, you know it's going to go away. You're going to get better and you're going to push through as long as you keep going. That was one of my things is if I just trust the process, it would be better in the end.

At this point in your career are you just working to continually improve the things you already know or are there still new things for you to learn?

There's always something to learn. That's what's crazy about gymnastics, but I think that's what's allowed me to love it for so long is I get bored with things pretty easy, so having something to learn, we have six events and hundreds and hundreds of skills on each event that you can learn. I think that's something that's always been fun for me is I can always go into the gym and try and learn something new.

Okay, now this was the last question. Would you rather win an Olympic gold medal or have a skill named for you?

That's a good question.

Because one is sort of like a moment in time and one is enduring.

That is a good question. I don't know. I probably would go with the Olympic gold. I actually do have a skill named after me.

You do!?

Yeah, I do. It's on parallel bars. You swing from your upper arms, you do a back with a half turn and then catch in a hand.

This is an easy question for you. We thought this would be a challenging one, but since you had a skill already (named for you) ...

Well, it is cool. I mean if you do, but if you get an Olympic gold you're still a part of history which lasts forever.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.