Regular people often travel to spend Christmas with their loved ones' families. If you're an Olympic gymnast, you do that and make public appearances bound to delight fans.
Jake Dalton, a gymnast who competed with Team USA at last summer's Olympic Games in London, will hold two meet-and-greet sessions Saturday: at the Illinois Gymnastics Institute in Westmont and Spring Hill Gymnastics in Elgin.
Dalton arrived in the Chicago area Wednesday with his girlfriend, Kayla Nowak, to spend Christmas with her family in Algonquin. Dalton and Nowak are both 21 and seniors at the University of Oklahoma.
This is at least his third visit to the Chicago area, Dalton said. Other than the two events, this week's visit will be all about relaxation because Nowak just had back surgery last week, he said.
Public appearances are about inspiring young gymnasts, Dalton said.
"For me, it's mostly about being able to talk to the kids and get them excited," he said. " "It's nice (for them) to know the firsthand experience about training, going to the Olympics and being back from there, so they understand not just what they see on TV and read from articles."
It's been quite a ride since the Olympics, Dalton said.
"You're going from just your family and friends cheering you on, to support from everywhere around the country."
Dalton said he wants to increase support for men's gymnastics. The U.S. men's team failed to medal, finishing fifth, while the U.S. women's team earned gold in London. Dalton tied for fifth in the individual floor exercise final.
"I want to grow the audience for gymnastics, and let them know that men's gymnastics isn't going anywhere," he said.
Gymnasts in Elgin are very excited, said J.R. Vanko, advertising director for Spring Hill Gymnastics.
"It's always a great opportunity for community engagement when we have opportunities," he said. "It's a great inspiring moment for our gymnasts to see someone whose career in this sport has taken them so far. It's about the inspiration, the excitement, the hope to keep those dreams alive."
From 10 to 11 a.m. Dalton will be at the Illinois Gymnastics Institute, 145 Plaza Drive in Westmont, where he will perform an exhibition and sign autographs. From 12:15 to 2:15 p.m. he will be at Spring Hill Gymnastics, 2750 Pinnacle Drive in Elgin, where he will pose for photos and sign autographs before an after his talk, which is scheduled from 12:45 to 1:30 p.m.