By Jo-Ann Barnas, Special Contributor
RIO DE JANEIRO — Podium training was nearly over, and the Olympians who’ll compete Sunday in men’s trampoline began to assemble on a platform for a team picture. Arms locked around each other’s shoulders, the group formed a tight semi-circle and smiled for photographers. Among them was Logan Dooley of the United States.
“Trampoline is a very tight knit community,” Dooley said after Saturday’s training session at the Rio Olympic Arena. “We all kind of have worked our way through the rankings together. It’s a relatively small world if you think about how many people train at that level. So I’m relatively close with the majority of competitors out there. We all can relate to each other. You know the people behind you and the people in front of you, and we really just come together as a group.”
At 28, Dooley is a first-time Olympian but a two-time alternate, having missed out for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Games. But after winning the spot after finishing ahead of 2012 Olympian Steven Gluckstein in the selection process in June, Dooley plans to make the most out of what might be his final Olympic opportunity.
“Over the last two quads, I’ve been the alternate and I feel like that passion and desire has really driven me to really push myself forward to continue and keep jumping, and finally I’m here and it’s an amazing feeling,” said Dooley, of Lake Forest, Calif./World Elite Gymnastics. “I’m really excited to get out there. I feel I jumped well today, and I’m hoping to continue going forward.”
Dooley’s goal: He wants to be the first U.S. male to qualify for the men’s final. To do so, he must finish among the best eight in qualifying.
At the 2012 London Games, Steven Gluckstein failed to advance, finishing 16th overall. Dong Dong of China is favored to defend his gold medal.
“The U.S. men have never finaled, and I’d really like to be the first U.S. man to at least move onto the finals,” Dooley said. “Coming to the Games and watching as an alternate and not getting the opportunity (to compete) was really a driving factor for me. Now that I’m here, I’ve shifted my goals quite a bit, from just making the Olympics to trying to move up the ranks.”
Like most competitors, Dooley has been involved in the sport — which wasn’t added to the Olympic program until the 2000 Sydney Olympics — since he was a youngster. He said competing in gymnastics was a springboard and an outlet for him because of his dyslexia. He often returns to talk to children at the Prentice School in North Tustin, Calif., a leading school for students with learning disabilities.
“The message I like to promote to kids with learning disabilities is that just because you have a learning disability, it doesn’t mean you can’t accomplish your goals and your dreams,” Dooley said.
And Sunday, his dream will be a reality.
“My training went well,” he said Friday. “I seem to be the only guy out of 16 on the other trampoline, and that’s a little scary, but I made my choices and I feel like it’s a good trampoline and I’m happy with it. Hopefully, I can get out there and shine, and be happy with my performances tomorrow.”