Olympics

High Hopes: San Diego Gymnast Eyes Return Trip to 2020 Olympic Games

Twenty-one-year-old Scripps Ranch native Nicole Ahsinger competes in trampoline gymnastics.

NBCUniversal, Inc.

During the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games, Nicole Ahsinger got a unique and behind-the-scenes view at a historic performance when she roomed with five-time Gold medalist Simone Biles.

Four years later, the now-21-year-old Nicole Ahsinger wants her own shot at Olympic stardom in Tokyo, Japan.

Nicole Ahsinger competes in the lesser-known discipline of trampoline gymnastics, a sport where athletes soar to extreme heights while performing routines filled with twists and turns.

The sport's description is a lot like her Olympic journey.

Nicole Ahsinger's parents said she was never really all that coordinated in traditional sports, which is somewhat surprising given her ascent in gymnastics.

"She can't ride a bike still, she'll tell you she can, but she can't, and she runs funny," said her mother, Michelle Ahsinger. "We put her in soccer, but she just wanted to do cartwheels."

The one thing she did do really well from an early age was jump and twist. As a toddler, she would frequently twist out of people's arms while they held her and she wouldn't stop jumping on beds.

Nicole Ahsinger's parents enrolled her at So Cal TTC, a Poway-based trampoline gym, where under the direction of owner Steven Rosko, she excelled to national prominence in youth competitions.

But, while Olympic dreams may start with talent, they rarely come true without a serious amount of sacrifice.

I want to go back again, medaling would be the best thing for me.

Nicole Ahsinger

Nicole Ahsinger was just 16 years old when she and her parents came to the "fork in the road" of her Olympic aspirations.

She had been recruited to train with a nationally-recognized coach who would take her talent to the next level and hopefully turn her into an Olympian.

The only problem: the coach was based in Lafayette, Louisana, and Nicole Ahsinger would have to leave her parent's Scripps Ranch home to live and train full-time.

"I'm an only child, so they didn't really want me to leave," said Nicole Ahsinger.

Her mom remembers crying -- a lot.

"It was really, really hard, but I didn't want it to be, 'Gee mom, you're the one who killed the dream,'" said Michelle Ahsinger.

So the teenager who didn't know how to cook or change the lint out of a dryer moved into an apartment on the other side of the country with the goal of making it to the 2020 Olympics.

Nicole Ahsinger remembers being so home sick, it was actually impacting her training.

Her new coach banned her from talking with her parents more than once a week and didn't let her travel home for three to four months.

It was tough love and a wake-up check to her new reality, but it turned out to work -- and a head of schedule.

Nicole Ahsinger surprised even herself when she qualified for the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympic Games, four years before her "targeted" Olympics.

While she didn't get close to the podium, she said it wasn't her time.

"I want to go back again and make a statement, and medaling would be the best thing for me," said Nicole Ahsinger.

The U.S., despite being a gymnastics powerhouse, has never had an athlete medal in trampoline gymnastics at the Olympics.

Nicole Ahsinger wants to make history, but first she'll have to qualify.

Three Olympic Trials competitions, starting in February and ending in June, will help decide whether she gets the opportunity to represent Team USA in Tokyo.

Until then, she'll keep with her formula for success: jump high, work hard, and above all else: dream big

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