By Jo-Ann Barnas, Special Contributor
RIO DE JANEIRO — She was in the third row of green folding chairs with the other gymnasts, those who had finished their qualification routines or were still competing, including the ones about to advance to the Olympic women’s trampoline final. Nicole Ahsinger wasn’t among the best eight. But that didn’t mean her Olympics were over quite yet.
With her coach, Tara Guidry, sitting a few feet to her left, Ahsinger sat with her eyes fixed on the routines of her competitors. The 18-year-old San Diego native was studying them all, like a student prepping for an exam.
“Every time they’d go, I would look at their time of flight, and then I’d look at what their DD (degree of difficulty) was and then look at their total score,” Ahsinger said. “And clearly, my total score was not good at all. My degree of difficulty — my jump time — I need to get both of those up before I can try to even think about getting a medal.”
Ahsinger didn’t advance out of the qualification rounds Saturday at the Rio Olympic Arena, her two routines falling well short of the total score needed to be among the top eight finalists. Officially, she placed 15th overall out of 16 gymnasts in her first Olympics. Her total qualification score for her two routines — compulsory and optional — was 95.45.
Rosie McLennan of Canada was the repeat gold medalist in the event, beating silver medalist Bryony Page of Great Britain and bronze medalist Li Dan of China in the final.
“It’s not exactly what I wanted, of course,” said Ahsinger, who trains at Trampoline and Tumbling Express in Lafayette, La. “I would have loved to have (been in the) final, and I knew that probably wasn’t a possibility. If I did outstanding routines, yes, than I could have finaled. But it just didn’t happen that way. But I’m very excited. It was an amazing experience and I wouldn’t have traded it for the world.”
Ahsinger said that she was more nervous for her opening compulsory than her optional routine, and was disappointed with the way she handed her second routine.
“I kept on rushing and rushing instead of staying in the middle,” said Ahsinger, who competed at the 2015 World Championships. “I wanted to get the routine done, more so than trying to do a better routine. So that’s where I fell short. My scores weren’t where I wanted them. But I’m looking forward to going home and training harder.”
As the youngest Olympian in the field, Ahsinger believes she has a bright future ahead.
“I knew what I was up against,” she said. “I knew that winning was very far-fetched. But they’re just outstanding, so much better than I am. I know what I have to look like. And I know what I have to be to get to their level.”
Next up for Ahsinger after the Rio Games isn’t school; she has deferred admission into the University of Louisiana-Lafayette until next spring in order to travel and perform with the Kellogg’s Tour of Gymnastics Champions. The seven-week tour kicks off Sept. 15.