SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Wednesday night in San Jose, California, nerves were tighter than the trampoline bed, as eight men (including two brothers) vied for the lone men’s Olympic berth for London.
Steven Gluckstein, who had won two portions of the three-part Trials, said the pressure was even greater than it was at the London test event where he had the sole responsibility of trying to earn the United States the right to compete in the men’s event at the 2012 Games.
To calm himself, he said, “I was trying everything and anything.” Backstage, his sports psychologist tried to talk him down. There was vomiting. And by the time Steven’s younger brother, Jeffrey, had landed the last of his 10 tricks and failed to overtake Logan Dooley’s score, Steven mounted the trampoline as the last competitor, knowing he had to beat Dooley’s 56.150 to qualify for London and avenge the specter of the 2008 Trials, where Gluckstein had fallen on an easy trick and stayed home.
“It was the most pressure I’ve had in my life,” he said.
His main worry? “Myself.”
Gluckstein’s nerves intensified during the pre-jumps he used to gain height. At the same time, he also switched his defensive mindset to an offensive one. Just before he began, he thought, “Let’s kill this routine!”
Once he initiated his first trick, all distraction disappeared.
The routine was over in a blink, and while Gluckstein didn’t execute it to perfection, he earned 56.355 points enough to win and join Savannah Vinsant, 19, as the United States’ two-person trampoline team for London.
“Absolute relief!” Gluckstein said Thursday morning after getting about two hours of sleep in a hotel room he shared with Jeffrey, who placed third on Thursday. He didn’t see much of his lookalike brother Wednesday night, however.
“He was definitely hurting,” said Steven, 22, of Jeffrey, who was competing in his first Trials at 19.
“It’s going to be hard, because every time he sees me, he’s going to think what he could have had,” Gluckstein added.
Thursday morning, Jeffrey told TeamUSA.org that he wasn’t sure whether he’d go to London with the rest of his family.
“I hope within the next year he’ll understand it,” Steven said. “Four years ago [at Trials], I’d fallen and, right then, I knew this is not my time. His time will come. I call it trampoline adulthood.”
Steven hopes Jeffrey will fly to London anyway because he could use the experience to his advantage.
“I think it would be great for him [to go] so when it’s his time, he’ll have experienced the atmosphere,” Steven said. “I never had that. He’d be one up on me when his time comes.”
In London, Gluckstein will face tough competition from China, Russia, and Japan -- each of which will have two athletes in the 16-man field. To be competitive, Gluckstein plans to increase his level of difficulty from about 16.2 to 16.7 at the Games.
“I may have something in the final that’s a little special, which I’ll keep secret,” he said.
He has also invented a trick, which his coach, Tatiana Kovaleva, didn’t think was competition-ready and would be hard to connect with other tricks.
“Safety is my priority,” she said, adding that if it were to be used, the only place for it would be as an optional trick in the compulsory routine in the qualification round.
It’s a triple-twisting triple backflip in the pike position.
“The skill requires significant height,” Gluckstein explained, so it would have to be done in the first two or three tricks.”
In order to name it, however, he has to use it in competition. Asked what he wanted to call it, he said, “I would call it a Gluckstein, but I can’t because of my brother.”
And with a laugh, he was off to catch a flight home, full of adrenaline.
Aimee Berg is a freelance contributor for TeamUSA.org. This story was not subject to the approval of the United States Olympic Committee or any National Governing Bodies.