N.J. brothers jump at the chance for a spot on Olympic gymnastics team

The trampoline is one of the lesser-known Olympic events. It’s like diving but in reverse — athletes bounce themselves 30 feet in the air, tumbling and twisting on the way up and then down.

“A lot of times you’re twisting so fast that you get lost in the skill,” said Jeffrey Gluckstein, the U.S. trampoline champion of 2011. “Sometimes you lose sight of what you have to see. You have to go by feel rather than looking. Your body knows what it’s doing, but your head is freaking out.”

It’s not just your head that freaks out. Your mother does, too.

“They go so high, it’s nerve-wracking,” said Loretta Gluckstein. Her sons Jeffrey, 19, and Steven, 22, are two of the best trampolinists in the country.

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“It’s not only nerve-wracking for me, it was nerve-wracking for my boys, because they supposedly heard me gasping in the audience,” she said. “Now, I don’t think they could hear me. But they said, listen, if you’re going to be at our competitions, you have to leave the venue and stand in the hallway until I’m done, and then you can come back in.”

Jeffrey and Steven were both finalists for the 2012 Olympic team. But there is only one slot for a trampolinist on the gymnastics team.

“This past few months were really difficult. They both were trying for that one spot to go to the Olympics,” said Loretta Gluckstein. “As a mom, you want the best for both your boys. When they came home, we really didn’t talk about trampoline. I always instilled ‘family comes first.'”

Jeffrey and Steven have traded the No. 1 ranking in the past. Last year, Jeffrey was the U.S. champion. This year, Steven is going to London.

“He deserves that spot,” said Jeffrey. “I’m happy to have the Gluckstein name up there. As a brother, I can’t be any happier. I’m going over there to watch. I don’t know if he’s going to hear me, but I’ll be cheering and screaming my head off.”

“He told me I have to be quiet,” said his mother, sitting next to Jeffrey at the Elite Trampoline Academy in Red Bank, New Jersey. “In a huge arena, he’s like, ‘I need you to be quiet. I don’t want to have to hear you when I compete. There’s no cheering, no sighing.’ I’m like, ‘Really?’ He’s like, ‘No.'”

Jeffrey added, “I’m going to yell.”

The passion Jeffrey and Steven have for the trampoline is not a popular one. Lucrative endorsement deals will not be landing at their doorsteps anytime soon. But the Elite Trampoline Academy, opened almost a year ago by 2008 Olympic hopeful Kyle Bowen, offers trampoline classes as a gateway to gymnastics.

After all, said Loretta Gluckstein, don’t all kids like jumping on their bed?

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