Nicole Ahsinger performing in the gymnastics trampoline final at the Pan American Games Lima 2019 on Aug. 5, 2019 in Lima, Peru.
“It was like jumping on a marshmallow.”
That’s how Nicole Ahsinger described the trampolines she competed on in Lima, Peru, giving Team USA an unforeseen test at the Pan American Games. Thanks to their individual adjustments and recovery strategies, however, three Americans reached the podium in men’s and women’s trampoline, setting a new record in Pan American Games medals for Team USA trampoline athletes.
Ahsinger, the 2019 national synchro champion, earned a silver medal in the women’s final. Her teammates, Jeffrey Gluckstein and Ruben Padilla, secured a silver and bronze medal in the men’s final, respectively.
“I’m ecstatic, just so happy with my performances this week,” Padilla, the 2019 national champion in double mini, said. “Training for me wasn’t going that great, but I felt a lot more confident in competition. I’m just so happy to come out with a medal…”
A puzzled look then enveloped Padilla’s face. Sheepishly, he looked down at the medal he wore around his neck.
“Oh, a bronze, I guess.”
Padilla can be forgiven for the slip-up. Adjusting to the trampolines in Lima had provided an ample mental test already.
“The trampoline I’m used to is a lot quicker,” he explained. “So, when you hit it, it immediately pushes you up. Getting used to the trampolines here was a very big thing for me. It was a big mental adjustment. You had to wait a lot longer and be more patient on the trampoline.”
The patience and mental fortitude paid off for the 18-year-old. The second-to-last athlete on the start list in the event final, Padilla posted an excellent score, 57.160, to take the bronze. Fists clenched, smiling with pride, he leapt off the trampoline following his routine, waving gleefully to the crowd.
Following him was teammate Gluckstein, a competitor with both personal and familial experience on his side. Gluckstein’s older brother, Steven, also competed at the Pan American Games in trampoline, earning a silver medal in 2015 in Toronto. Entering the event final Monday, Gluckstein hoped to at least match his older brother’s accomplishment.
“I’m glad to keep the legacy of the Gluckstein family alive at the Pan American Games,” he said. “Though, the goal here was to go a little step higher. But, I’m happy with the routine I did. I gave it my best, and that’s all you can really do.”
As with teammates Padilla and Ahsinger, Gluckstein also had to adjust to the new trampolines, finding they took a greater toll on his body.
“My body got a little bit more sore after using these trampolines, so I really had to take my recovery seriously after training,” he said. “But as soon as you step onto a trampoline in competition mode, it doesn’t matter what trampoline it is. You just have to do what you have to do.”
Ahsinger rounded out Team USA’s historic night with a silver medal in the women’s event. The third athlete on the start list, her score of 52.540 held up throughout the competition, falling just short of Canada’s Samantha Smith.
“Wow, I was just going out there trying to get 10 skills,” Ahsinger said. “It’s pretty amazing to be able to compete here. Winning a silver medal is just icing on the cake.”
The men’s and women’s trampoline finals concluded the gymnastics portion of the Pan American Games. Team USA had a historic competition, earning 25 medals – 8 golds, 11 silvers and 6 bronzes – in Lima.