Two Brothers, One Olympic Trampolinist

Jun 14, 2012
Originally published on June 14, 2012 6:23 pm

Steven and Jeffrey Gluckstein are in a tough spot. They're brothers. They're world-class athletes. They train together six times a week, side by side, at the same gym. And only one of them can make the U.S. Olympic team as a trampolinist.

Steven, 21, is precise on the bounce mat. He rockets up to the ceiling, twists his body into a jackknife, flips around a couple times and hits the trampoline for less than a second before he shoots back up. Every time he comes down, his feet stab the red X in the center.

Like a math equation, Steven calculates his movements for the exact moment.

"Add this, subtract this, OK, now multiply the flip by using your shoulders, slow it down by using less hips — constantly adding, subtracting, multiplying, doing all kinds of different stuff to make that perfect bounce," he says.

Where Steven is obsessive, Jeffrey, 19, is chill. Where Steven is sharp, Jeffrey is easy. Steven's the hard worker. Jeffrey's the natural.

"It's mostly instinctual for me. I do have a sense for the trampoline — it gets me, I get it," Jeffrey says.

The guys live at home with their parents, where their dynamic is apparent. When Steven wakes up, he'll typically make breakfast for his sleeping brother. And at night, Jeffrey may return the favor by cooking dinner.

Most prospective Olympians aren't getting tucked in at night by their biggest rival. Then again, most prospective Olympians don't have this close a relationship.

"Yeah, we're best friends," Steven says.

The Glucksteins spend their time training at Elite Trampoline Academy in Red Bank, N.J. Their coach, Tatiana Kovaleva, yells out the maneuvers they're supposed to do and times them with a stopwatch.

"You're trying, but I still see the arm!" she tells Jeffrey. "I have to say it several times to him, what we're doing, he's so lost."

After Jeffrey comes Steven. Each one gets about 20 seconds on the trampoline. While in the air, Steven flips more than 20 times.

At the end of his turn, he keeps track of his performances in a composition book.

"I can look back and say, 'Oh, I had 33 practices and 739 turns, but I did really bad at the competition. Maybe I need to up my turns,' " Steven says.

It's the perfect system for a perfectionist like Steven. Jeffrey has one, too — Steven says Jeffrey just copies his at the end of practice.

After Steven's next turn, though, he doesn't write anything down. He just walks away, stalking angrily away over three trampolines.

"This sport is so much mental. It's like 90 percent mental, 10 percent physical," Steven says.

The mental game is extreme in part because Steven's competing with his brother. He and his best friend are going flip to flip on June 27 for one spot in the Olympics.

And Jeffrey can feel the anxiety, too. He says they try not to talk about their looming situation at home.

"It's such a big year; it's the Olympics. And how can you not talk about the Olympics? It's definitely going to pop up; you can't get rid of this," Jeffrey says.

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