US Olympic Alternates Prepare, Hope for Opportunity
LONDON — Some athletes who failed to qualify for their country's Olympic team still made it to London as part of the back-up squad, and will compete if the starters get injured, quit or are disqualified. Two alternate gymnasts practicing with the U.S. team have definite thoughts about the bittersweet experience of almost making the Olympic squad.
While Dacota Earnest, an 18-year-old from Texas, did not fulfill her Olympic dream, she still made it to London. She and Logan Dooley were selected as back-ups for the U.S. Olympic team's trampoline gymnasts, Savanah Vinsant and Steven Gluckstein, in the off chance they cannot compete.
“It's a little disappointing and sad at moments, but then again, I am here to support Savannah and it's an awesome experience and I'll be looking forward to 2016,” said Earnest.
Dooley is from California, and at age 24 is in the prime of his athletic career, He also was an alternate in the 2008 Beijing Olympic games. He said the disappointment is perhaps greater the second time around.
“It is a difficult position to be in, especially since I lost out both times by very slim margins. But you know the experience, I can only look at it as positive and take it as what it is,” said Dooley.
Both say they try to stay positive and are rooting for the starters to do well in this sport, which has been dominated by China, Japan and Canada since it debuted at the 2000 Olympics. But Earnest's coach, Sherry Mulkey, said it is a great challenge to keep alternate Olympic athletes motivated when they know they likely will not get to compete.
“It's really hard keeping her spirits up and Logan's too, trying to be part of both of them and keeping them excited and thinking about the possibility," said Mulkey. "You've got to be ready no matter what, but yet... ” said Mulkey.
Barring unforeseen circumstances, Logan and Earnest will not compete in the London Olympics. But they will always know that they almost made the team - and perhaps next time their hard work will pay off.