USA Gymnastics

Why Nicole Ahsinger Is Flying Into Tokyo, Ready And Confident

Why Nicole Ahsinger Is Flying Into Tokyo, Ready And Confident

U.S. Trampolinist Nicole Ahsinger talks about mental and physical preparation for the Olympics.

Jul 19, 2021 by Kelly Feng
Why Nicole Ahsinger Is Flying Into Tokyo, Ready And Confident

Nicole Ahsinger doesn’t have a lot on her list of pre-competition rituals. She doesn’t meditate. She doesn’t have a breathing technique. She doesn’t do any visualization.

She doesn’t need them.

“I already have a pretty good mentality when I compete,” Ahsinger said. “I'm not one to get nervous. My adrenaline spikes and I like to use that as a benefit instead of making me freak out.” 

She is well known for her consistency, something she credits her coach Dmitri Poliaroush, a two-time Olympian in his own right and former world champion for Belarus.

“He preaches to us to do as many routines as you can and make sure that you never stop. That has helped me, especially in competition,” said Ahsinger, who qualified for her second Olympics last month, winning the lone U.S. spot on the women’s side of the discipline.

Ahsinger explains that her consistency comes from practicing what Poliaroush preaches, saying she does more routines in a week than a normal athlete does in a month. She believes performing the sheer number of routines is the biggest takeaway from Poliaroush’s coaching style. 

“I think with the consistency of the numbers, and with me focusing my energy on jumping higher, rather than getting nervous, it just goes really well,” Ahsinger said. 


Many trampolinists accidentally discover their sport through the path of artistic gymnastics. At some point, either through burnout or natural curiosity, they become enthralled with the discipline and permanently make the switch.

For the San Diego native, it was the opposite. Ahsinger’s father brought her to a trampoline gymnastics class at age 3. She started bouncing and never jumped off, quickly progressing through the developmental levels. 

By the time she was 15, she was competing internationally. In 2012 she finished sixth at the Elite Challenge in Tulsa, Okla. Later that year, she finished second at the U.S. Elite Championships in Long Beach, Calif. The following year she had her first international competition, participating in the 2013 World Age Group competition in Sofia, Bulgaria. 

Around that time, her San Diego coach told her he had taken her as far as possible in the sport.  

Long aware of Poliaroush’s reputation for coaching and producing Olympians, Ahsinger finally persuaded her mother to let her move to Lafayette, La., to train with the well-respected coach at Trampoline & Tumbling Express. After two years of listening to her daughter’s begging, Michelle Ahsinger agreed, having one condition—Nicole would have to finish high school first. 

With her first two years completed at the local public school, Ahsinger moved to a charter school and completed her junior and senior years in six months, receiving her high school diploma and moving to Louisiana.  

Ahsinger’s first trip to the Olympics was somewhat unexpected. Charlotte Drury was the favorite going into Rio. Still, she injured her ankle while training a few days before the Olympic Trials and had to pull out, paving the way for Ahsinger.

However unexpected, Ashinger, 18, was determined to make the most of her Olympic experience. The first-time Olympian, with only three international senior competitions under her belt, finished 15th. 

Since 2016, Ahsinger has intensified her conditioning, beginning with CrossFit, which helped her build more muscle and in turn increased her vertical jump. While she had to drop the training regime to focus more on trampoline, she knows she’s now more physically robust.

However, the most significant change for Ahsinger today isn’t her physicality but her mentality —how she saw herself in 2016 versus how she sees herself today.  

“From 2016 to 2021, the biggest thing that I've realized is that I'm older; I now have so much more knowledge with trampoline,” Ahsinger said. “I compete against the girls so many times. I feel like I'm one of them, instead of just this little girl.”

At 23, her international experience since 2016 has boosted her self-confidence. She placed second at both the 2018 and 2019 Pan American Championships in Lima, Peru. Part of the growing self-confidence comes from the fact that the same athletes she’s competed against are now her friends, not just the athletes she looked up to when she was younger. 

“It's crazy that five years makes that much of a difference, not just in trampoline but for me as an entire person,” Ahsinger said. 

Her top-three finish at the recent 2021 Brescia World Cup didn’t hurt either. 

“One of the biggest things that helped me, especially in international competition, is getting my name out there, getting that third-place bronze medal,” Ahsinger said. “It helped me on the international stage because now I'm not just a girl that goes to international competitions and places top 15. It's, ‘OK, Nicole has gone now, and she's finaled. She has medaled. Let's see what she can do.’”

Poliaroush has witnessed the transformation firsthand. 

He stated that when his student made the Olympics in 2016, it was a surprise to Ahsinger and others in the trampoline community. While she may have been an excited, happy kid at the time, today Ahsinger is a mature adult. 

“She became more mature. She became more consistent. She doesn’t waste her time. She's coming. She's working. She’s trying to fix everything,” Poliaroush said.

Coaching Ahsinger the adult these days, Poliaroush sees it in her eyes that she's trying to understand what he’s saying, and she’s become more professional as well. 

“The biggest thing is she knows exactly what she's [in practice] for. When before it was whatever has happened, has happened. She’s happy, you know, like a kid,”  Poliaroush said. 

For most Olympic hopefuls, the COVID-19 pandemic’s postponement of the Tokyo Games became an existential crisis, forcing them to question their commitment and test their stamina and fortitude. 

For Ahsinger, it was simply another year of training. 

“It never crossed my mind that I was ever going to quit. That entire year was hard for me mentally to stay motivated, but I've got so much better throughout this entire year. As terrible as it was, I think it helped me as an athlete. My mentality is stronger. My physical ability is stronger. I'm jumping so much better than I was a year ago.”

- Nicole Ahsinger

She may not have any pre-competition rituals, but she does live by a simple mantra: She believed she could, so she did. 

Ahsinger says the quote speaks volumes to her. She adds that many people in her life have always said, “You’re so cute, but there’s no way you could go to the Olympics.”

Because she always believed in herself, she’s been able to achieve her biggest dreams and prove those doubters wrong. 

“That works well with everybody in their life, no matter if you're an athlete or if you're seeking to work at a high-industry job,” Ahsinger said. 

“No matter what it is—as long as you believe in yourself and you believe that you can achieve those goals, there's nothing that's going to stop you.”