Steven and Jeffrey Gluckstein, both qualified to compete in the Olympics in trampoline, are in a tough spot. The brothers train together six times a week –at the same gym, side by side– knowing that when the games come, only one gets to represent the U.S. as its male 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 men live at home with their parents, where their dynamic is apparent. When Steven wakes up, he’ll typically make breakfast for him and 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. But also, most prospective Olympians, most brothers, don’t have a close 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 skill they’re supposed to do and times the men on a stopwatch.
“You’re trying but I still see the arm!” tells Kovaleva to Jeffrey. “I have to say it several times to him, what we’re doing, he’s soo lost.”
After Jeffrey, comes Steven. Each one gets about twenty seconds on the trampoline. While in the air, Steven flips more than twenty times.
At the end of his turn, he writes in a composition book to keep track of his performances.
“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 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 Olympic Games.
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.