Two brothers compete for one Olympic trampoline spot

Steven Gluckstein, 21, the highest-ranking male trampoline athlete in the country, is one qualifying event away from making the U.S. Olympic team.

There’s only one person standing in his way: His brother Jeffrey, 19, who's ranked No. 2.

Before 2011, there was little sibling rivalry among the New Jersey jumpers. But last year, when Jeffrey took Steven's national champion title, that changed.

“We never competed against each other. So I never looked at him as competition,” Steven told TODAY. “I looked at him as my little brother also competing at the same sport. So I was always trying to get him going, get him better, help him out, give him tips.”

The boys have been jumping since they were kids, when the family installed a trampoline in the backyard. “They just started to jump, and got better and better,” said their father Steven.

On the TODAY plaza Thursday, the men talked to Matt Lauer and showed off their tandem trampolining skills.

TODAY

Steven and Jeffrey show off their high-flying moves on the plaza Thursday.

"If this were my kids, I’d have to move them to separate states," Lauer told older brother Steven. “How are you handling this?"

"Well it’s very important that we keep our gym life separate from our home life,” Steven said. “When we walk through the gym doors, we’re competitors. But once we leave, we’re brothers."

The two train together at a gym not far from their parents' house where they both live, albeit in separate rooms and on separate floors. "I make breakfast so he doesn’t sleep through training,” Steven said. "I want him to compete at his best so when I beat him it will be that much sweeter." Their qualifying meet is in California, in June. 

Steven calls his personal training method military-grade strict. "Everything is on time, everything’s gotta be very organized and structured, whereas my brother is the younger brother, a little bit more laid back and he does what he wants to.”

Training together for over a decade means the pair know the other’s game. “I notice his strengths more than his weaknesses," said Steven. "It makes me work that much harder."

Steven attempted to make the U.S. Olympic team in 2008 but fell short of qualifying. He told TODAY, "I think I got a little bit ahead of myself and I messed up one of my last tricks on my final routine and it was done …That’s what’s making me work so hard. He’s so close so I can’t let up, not for one minute."

Brother Jeffrey calls his brother an inspiration, even with the intense pressure of competition. “Just seeing him going from a double front to triples is really great and to follow in those footsteps is really an honor."

Though the trampoline is in American invention, dating back to Iowa in the 1930s, the United States has not fared well at the Olympics since it was made an official sport in 2000. The U.S. has never brought home a medal, losing out in previous years to China, Russia, Germany and Canada.  

When Lauer asked the brothers which one of them will represent America in London, Steven held Jeffrey's hands down and shot his arm in the air. “I want the best for him,” Steven said in an earlier interview. “I just want a little better for me.”

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TODAY.com contributor Jillian Eugenios was thrilled when trampoline became an official Olympic category, validating the way she has always felt about the sport.

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    Reply#1 - Thu May 17, 2012 2:54 PM EDT
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