By Hayes Gardner
DES MOINES, Iowa, July 4, 2019 — Jeff Gluckstein didn’t want to be a trampolinist. At least, not at first.
His older brother, Steven, began competing on the trampoline as a kid, and Jeff wanted to try his hand at something different.
So for the first year-and-a-half of his young athletic career, Jeff trained as an artistic gymnast. It wasn’t before long, however, that the allure of the trampoline drew Jeff in, and he joined his brother in the sport.
Flash forward to now, and the Gluckstein name has made quite an impact on the sport of trampoline — and it’s an impact that still reverberates. For the past 10 years, a Gluckstein has won the U.S. trampoline title, and Jeff is hoping to continue that trend when he steps onto the bed Thursday, July 4, at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines.
“I want Gluckstein to be a big, strong name in trampoline gymnastics. If you go anywhere, not even only in the United States, I want the world to really know that name,” Jeff said of the decorated duo.
The Gluckstein pair has created a U.S. legacy on the trampoline, and although Steven is a coach now and no longer competes, Jeff, 26, is looking to keep the streak alive.
“I feel like I owe it to him as much as I owe it to myself, because he’s put in so much hard work into it,” Jeff said.
Jeff still uses Steven as an invaluable resource. Just this week, Jeff mentioned some back pain he was feeling, and his big brother pointed out that he may be twisting on his jumps a touch early.
“He’s got a special eye for those kind of things,” Jeff said.
In 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018, Jeff took home the U.S. title, and although he suffered a broken ankle in October, he still feels confident that, once again, a Gluckstein will finish on top.
“I’m setting the bar high. My body feels good. I like the people here. The atmosphere always pushes me to do better,” he said.
Down the road, Jeff has another focused goal: he wants to compete in the Olympics for the first time. Throughout his career, Jeff’s had several Olympic near-misses: in 2010, he faltered on a routine and missed the Youth Olympics; in 2012, he was edged out by his brother; and in 2016, a neck injury held him back.
“That was a bit devastating,” he said. “But the fire burns.”
That fire has led him to seek another national title and it’s led him to aspire for Tokyo 2020 and to join his brother as an Olympian. Steven, who speaks of Jeff with the pride of an older sibling, thinks that Jeff’s time is approaching.
“I feel like everyone has their moment, and his is for sure coming up, and I can attest to that because I see his trainings,” Steven said.
Jeff has always been a focused trampolinist — someone who worked consistently at his craft — and has seen plenty of success. However, Steven noted an even higher degree of dedication recently, as Jeff is diligent in his entire approach, whether it’s seeing a physical therapist or a chiropractor, or carefully monitoring what he eats and how much he sleeps.
“He has made this switch to put all of his eggs in this one basket, so it’s been fun to see him,” Steven said.
Steven competed in the Olympics in 2012 and was an alternate in 2016. In honor of his journey, he has a tattoo of the Olympic rings on the underside of his bicep. Jeff is hoping that, in 2020, he can join his brother — both in being an Olympian and in sporting the same tattoo.
It would add to an already stunning Gluckstein legacy.
“That would make me probably happier than going myself, and now, me being a coach,” Steven said of Jeff competing in the Olympics. “When it’s your little brother or your son or your athlete, it means so much more.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: Tatiana Kovaleva coaches Jeffrey Gluckstein at Elite Trampoline Academy, where she also was Steven’s coach when he was competing.