Nicole Ahsinger is headed back to the Olympic Games after winning the preliminaries of the final U.S. trampoline selection event, the USA Gymnastics Championships, Friday (25 June) in St. Louis.
She totaled a 102.180 ahead of Charlotte Drury’s 101.94. Jessica Stevens finished third.
"Honestly, I really wasn't even worried about my performances, I kind of just wanted to go out there and hit two routines and whatever happened, happened,” said Ahsinger, who won the overall standings – a combined score that adds together the best two of three scores from events throughout the 2021 season. "But after looking at the scores, because I wasn't even aware of how good or badly I did, I was like, 'Oh, my gosh, I really did a good job. Like, I crushed it."
Aliaksei Shostak will represent Team USA in the men’s competition after securing a spot by name through his performance at the 2019 World Championships.
Eariler this month, Ahsinger’s performance at the Brescia World Cup in Italy secured Team USA the quota spot she will be assigned for next month’s Tokyo Olympic Games. Ahsinger is the first U.S. woman to go to back-to-back Games in trampoline since Jennifer Parilla competed at Sydney 2000 and Athens 2004.
"My mom said that when I was 3 years old, I told her that I wanted to go to the Olympic Games," said Ahsinger. "I know since the age of 12, I knew that I had opportunities to compete well enough, and maybe one day, I could go to the Olympics.
"I never in my wildest dreams thought that I could make the Olympics one time. And, then, I made it twice."
Drury: "I'm super, super proud of the outcome"
Five years ago, Ahsinger earned a surprise berth to the Games after the U.S. women’s leading female trampolinist, Drury, broke her foot at the trials.
Drury stepped away for the sport, devastated by the unfortunately timed injury. But a desperate call to come coach from 2016 Olympian Logan Dooley brought her back to the sport.
"He was begging me and I was like, 'well, I'll do anything for Logan," she explained. "If he's begging me, he's really desperate. I haven't been there in a year, so I stepped back in the gym and I was coaching. I found a lot of joy in helping the little kids get better and kind of seeing what the sport was really meant to be, not at the elite level, but like at the younger levels."
It’s been full of challenges, including recent type I diabetes diagnosis that has hindered her performances.
"I was not expecting that," Drury said of her second place finish. "I literally came in here with no expectations and just wanted to have a really good showing to cap off a career, and then I was out there and was like feeling it and I felt good. I had a good warm ups in the back, and the second I stepped on tramp for optional, I was like, this is to be good. This is I got this."
It was a huge change for Drury who says she had gone undiagnosed for diabetes for more than a year. Despite what she felt was hardwork in the gym, a performance at a camp in April frustrated her.
"I went to camp in April and I knew I had been training. I knew I had been working hard. I knew I was showing up, and I went to camp and I was looking at some of the girls. I was like, 'There's no way. I'm so far behind and I've been working so hard, something's wrong with me. Something is wrong,'" explained Drury. "And so I went home from that camp and I called my doctor. I got blood work done. And then the next day that I was type one diabetic."
"My life has flipped upside down like it was the craziest adjustment period," she said.
She's even had to make adjustments since that World Cup in Italy where she says adrenaline caused her blood sugar to soar. Friday she finally felt good and delivered a performance to remember.
"It's bittersweet... I think I've slowly been learning that's OK, it is OK to just do your best. I have absolutely zero regrets. I know that I gave one hundred percent of what I had every single day and that I'm super, super proud of the outcome," Drury said. "Doesn't matter. Olympic team, no Olympic team, Olympic alternate, Olympian like I gave 100 percent and I've been through the wringer.
"I'm impressed with myself that I even showed up to this competition, that I even made it this far."