By Brian Deakyne
MIDDLETOWN — Between brothers, competition is natural.
For most brothers, the encounters regard higher grades in school, being more athletic or just beating their respective sibling at anything they can.
For one pair of brothers, the stakes are a little bit higher.
Steven and Jeffrey Gluckstein of Atlantic Highlands are competing against one another for the lone spot to represent the United States in the upcoming summer Olympics. The winner will continue to London for the 2012 Summer Olympics, while the loser will stay home and watch.
“Competing against my brother is tough, it’s like a roller coaster and it really depends on the day,” Steven, 21, said. “Some days it can be good, and other days, it really isn’t. Sometimes I look at him as a competitor and I don’t sympathize for him at all. Other days, I see him as my brother and I do sympathize for him when he struggles.”
“It is emotional, but you can’t be emotionally attached,” Jeffrey, 19, said. “It’s important to keep a clear mind, stay focused and not get distracted by everything else that is going on.”
For the brothers, who have been training for this event for over a decade, the ability to be able to represent the United States is a tremendous honor, regardless of which person will be heading to London next month.
“This is the biggest stage, its the pinnacle and absolutely greatest honor for myself, to have a chance to represent my country,” Steven said. “I can only wonder what it would be like during those opening ceremonies. To be able to wear that jacket and show that patriotism and pride is really special.”
The Glucksteins have already completed two of their trials to decide which brother will be going to the Olympics, with one last 20-second trial set for June 27.
“It’s something great that not everyone gets to experience in their lifetime,” Jeffrey said. ” You have thousands of people that you don’t even know, rooting for you and all eyes are on you. It’s a great experience to be able to represent your country and just a great feeling of friendship among everyone for the United States.”
Earlier this year, Steven ensured the U.S. a spot at the Olympic games by finishing in 10th place at the Visa International Gymnastics Event in London.
Now, both brothers are focusing on their final trials approaching, and keeping an important balance between gym life and home life.
“Being brothers is one thing, being competitors is a whole other thing. You look at the Williams’ (Serena and Venus), the Manning’s (Peyton and Eli) and they just treat them like another competitor. Being that it is your brother, you have to hope the best for them and just a little better for yourself,” Jeffrey said.
“When we’re in the gym, we’re teammates and we’re competitors,” Steven said. “We’re always going to be brothers but when we’re at the gym, we aren’t necessarily looking out for each other the same way that we would at home because our training could suffer.”
Steven is ranked as the top United States trampoline jumper, with Jeffrey ranked number two, making the competition that much tougher as their final trial in San Jose, California, approaches.
“With the two of us being one and two, I think we feed off each other,” Steven said. “We don’t see each others weaknesses as we do with strengths, which can be a little scary. I think it makes us work harder and try to be better.”
According to the elder brother, even the smallest things can motivate him or his brother to be better.
“If Jeff sees me getting ready for bed at 10:30 and he wants to go out with his friends and party, he might re-think that and stay home,” Steven added. “He doesn’t want his training to suffer so I think it definitely carries into the home.”
“We train with each other everyday, we pick up on each other’s traits and that’s something that brothers do,” Jeffrey said. “We have chemistry, we come from the same family tree, and we just understand each other pretty well.”
Although they are brothers, they have different strategies. Steven, who was one clean landing away from the 2008 Summer Olympics in Bejing, follows a much more strict training regimen than Jeffrey, who appears to be the more natural jumper.
Over the next few weeks, one of these two brothers will be preparing for a trip to London, though, some weeks after that, both plan on making trips once again.
“When it’s over, it’s going to be very relaxing for me,” Jeffrey said. “I’m looking to take a trip to Hawaii or the Bahamas. I missed my senior trip in high school, so I’m overdue for that one.”
His brother is hoping for a little different type of trip.
“Hopefully I make it and then after the Olympics, I’m hoping to be a part of the Tour of Champions. The Olympians travel through 40 cities in the United States and pretty much just put on trampoline shows. It will be a little less stressful because whenever I travel, it’s for competitions, so I’d definitely be looking forward to that.”
Regardless of how the third trial ends on June 27, someone named Gluckstein will be representing America in London, and, if their past success is any kind of indicator, that Gluckstein will have a good chance at making Olympic history for the United States.