Editor’s note: This is the first in an occasional Road to Rio series on Penn State-connected athletes who are training for this summer’s Olympics.
Athletes across the globe have their eyes on the biggest games on Earth, the Summer Olympics. Former Penn State gymnasts Tristan Duverglas and Matt Felleman are among them, training alongside the current team and hoping for a trip to Brazil.
The Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro from Aug. 5-21, with the men’s artistic gymnastics events spanning Aug. 6-10.
Both 2015 graduates of Penn State, Duverglas and Felleman spend their days developing new skills and perfecting their consistency.
Duverglas, 22, who hails from New York City, competed in vault, still rings, floor and parallel bars for the Nittany Lions, and scored a career-best 15.250 on vault against Michigan in his senior season.
Felleman, 23, competed in all six events during his senior season and scored his career-high all-around score of 84.100 at the Navy Open. He intends to compete in five of the six events before the Olympic trials: floor, pommel horse, vault, parallel bars and high bar. The sixth is still rings.
Duverglas, a team captain in his final year, said he chose to stay at Penn State to train for an extra year before the Olympic trials because of the support provided by his teammates and coaches, as well as the world-class gym.
He and Felleman are being trained by Penn State coaches Randy Jepson, Carlos Vasquez and Tony Beck.
“As an undergrad it was probably the best experience I’ve ever had,” Duverglas said. “Coming onto a team, you’re instantly getting a whole family and training with a bunch of guys who will probably push you more than you push yourself.”
“I didn’t feel like I reached my peak yet. I felt like there was more I could do, so I wanted to take an extra year to see what I could do with it,” he said.
Felleman graduated last August and spent three months in Germany competing in a gymnastics league. He was paid to compete, lived with a teammate’s family and had his travel paid.
Like Duverglas, he thought it wasn’t yet time to hang up the grips.
While the two said they appreciate the support they’ve gotten from former teammates and coaches, they noted there is a fine line between remaining friends with their teammates and focusing on their individual goals.
Neither is a student. Felleman is not working. Duverglas works as a desk assistant in the White Building and as a bouncer at Chrome, a local bar. “I needed something that was pretty flexible that I could do around my training schedule,” he said.
Each is working on skills to add to his gymnastics repertoire.
“I’ve changed my vault, upgraded my rings, upgraded my parallel bars,” Duverglas said. “On rings I added in more strength skills. I changed my vault. Instead of doing a handspring double pike I’m doing a handspring double-front, half-out.”
For a gymnast to compete in the men’s U.S. Olympic Team Trials from June 23-25 in St. Louis, he must post qualifying scores through rounds of meets ahead of the trials.
Duverglas and Felleman competed at the Winter Cup in Las Vegas from Feb. 20-21. The Winter Cup was one of several qualifying meets at which an Olympic hopeful can compete for a bid to the P&G Gymnastics Championships for men June 3-5 in Hartford, Conn.
The P&G Championships is the next qualifying meet to reach the Olympic trials. Both qualified to participate in the P&G Championships thanks to their overall and event scores at the Winter Cup.
Duverglas’s highest placing in an individual event was his seventh-place finish in event finals on vault with a 30.200 for two vaults. Felleman’s highest place was ninth in event finals on high bar with a score of 28.650, a combined score of two takes on the apparatus.
With their necessary scores secured for the next round before the Olympic trials, both are looking forward to the P&G Championships and are eager to see how far they can push themselves in the Hartford events.
Maria Canales is a Penn State journalism student.