There are certain to be many ups and downs at the trampoline competition this week.
Both on and off the jumping apparatus.
Eleven men and 10 women will be compete in a two-day competition in San Jose, Calif., and only one man and one woman will earn spots on the 2012 U.S. Olympic Team.
If there’s one trampoline athlete who knows how tough the competition is, it’s Logan Dooley, who just missed a shot at competing four years ago in Beijing, where he traveled as an alternate. This time around, Dooley finds himself in third place entering this week’s national championships.
“It’s crunch time,” Dooley said. “But I’ve been preparing for this for the last four years. I am just trying to keep things as positive and happy as possible.”
His biggest competition comes from one family: the Gluckstein brothers, Steven and Jeffrey. And talk about tough, only one of those family members can go — if any at all.
Back in January at the Olympic test event for trampoline in London, Steven Gluckstein placed 10th and earned a spot for the United States for the trampoline competition at the Games this summer. He then won the first two of three events that determine who fills that spot. The third event is the national championships in San Jose this week. Brother Jeffrey is in second place.
Steven, who turned 22 on Sunday, is a three-time U.S. champion, having won in 2007, 2009 and 2010. Like Dooley, he, too, was close to making the U.S. Olympic Team in 2008. He led the men’s event after the compulsory routine but botched the landing on his optional routine. He ultimately placed fourth in the final standings, costing him a shot at competing in Beijing (Chris Estrada went instead). Gluckstein’s kid brother, Jeffrey, 19, is the defending U.S. champion and is seeking his first Olympic berth as well.
“Fortunately we haven't had the Jerry Springer-type moment within the household,” their father, Steven Gluckstein Sr., a Wall Street money manager, told The Wall Street Journal.
Making things even more complicated is that Steven Gluckstein and Dooley have competed together in synchronized trampoline, even winning the FIG’s World Cup Series title in 2010 with two victories and one second-place finish. Synchronized trampoline is not an Olympic sport (the individual version was added to the Olympic program in 2000) but it shows just how close this community is.
Dooley got his start in the sport by jumping on his parents’ bed.
“I actually broke it,” he said with a wry smile. “They thought that buying a backyard trampoline would be cheaper than replacing all of the beds in the house.”
Little did the Dooley family know that training would cost them far more than new bedroom furniture. By 2007, he moved from his family’s Lake Forest, Calif., home to Colorado Springs to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center, and he spent two years there.
“That was a real turning point for me,” he said. “It really improved my work ethic. Before I went, I was a pretty talented kid, but I wouldn’t say my work ethic was great. By 2009, I was the first American to win a World Cup (in Belgium).”
The Glucksteins, meanwhile, got involved in trampoline only after a local taekwondo center closed near their home in Atlantic Highlands, N.J.
“My mom wanted to keep us busy,” Steven said. “So I started taekwondo when I was 4 and when I was about 10 and a black belt, the school shut down. My mom is only 5-foot 2, and my dad is 5-foot-8, so they said we could be jockeys, cheerleaders or gymnasts.”
Traditional artistic gymnastics was Plan B, but then a coach named Tatiana Kovaleva came into the picture. She just happened to be a Russian world trampoline champion in 1996. So when Steven was 12, he made the jump, literally, to trampoline. Neither he nor his brother ever looked back.
“In fact,” Jeffrey said, “We had a trampoline in the backyard, but we didn’t know about it as a sport.”
The Glucksteins live in the same home, eat together, train together and both said they push each other along. Yet at the end of the day, there will be one spot in London.
“I hope it’s one of us,” Steven said.
On the women’s side, Savannah Vinsant, who is coached by Russian world champion Dmitri Poliaroush, is the leader entering these nationals followed by Dakota Earnest, who is used to being center stage having participated in beauty pageants. She was named Miss Lubbock County (Texas) Outstanding Teen in 2011.
When asked if Earnest uses trampoline as her talent for pageants, she laughed and said, ‘I don’t think the stage would be high enough for me do trampoline there.”
This week, the stage — and the stakes — certainly are high enough.
Amy Rosewater is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of any National Governing Bodies.