There was no competition this weekend as exciting as the Länderkampf Kunstturnen friendly in Dessau, Germany.
Both Germany and Brazil are countries on the border of qualifying to the team final at world championships in two weeks, thus qualifying a full team to the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. Both nations have been in the top eight in the recent past, but neither accomplished this in 2014, with Germany knocked out by one spot thanks to Australia’s surprisingly strong work, and Brazil all the way down in 16th, beaten down by injuries and eagerly awaiting the arrivals of new seniors Flavia Saraiva and Rebeca Andrade.
In Glasgow, neither team will have a problem finishing in the top 16, at least ensuring a spot at the test event in April, but a team final finish is not going to be easy considering the immense depth of the international field at the moment. Belgium, France, and the Netherlands are looking better than ever, Australia always manages to throw something together at the last minute, and Canada should also have a much better finish than they managed a year ago. Add the team final usual suspects – the United States, Russia, Romania, China, Italy, Japan, and Great Britain – into the mix and you can see just how difficult this is going to be.
This weekend, with their full teams – including alternates – competing, Brazil squeezed ahead of the Germans, defeating them 224.25 to 223.8, a super narrow margin that amounts to a couple of steps on landings or bobbles on beam. It was close here, and it’s probably going to be just as close in Glasgow.
Flavia Saraiva, the first-year senior expected to bring it both this year and next, won the all-around with a 56.85 after an excellent performance. I don’t think she gets much better than she did here, including a superb hit beam routine for a 14.7, the best score there of the day.
Her teammates Jade Barbosa and Lorrane Oliveira were tied in fifth with scores of 55.65, while Daniele Hypolito finished eighth with a 55.2. Barbosa was also very clean on all four events, while Oliveira struggled on floor but hit everything else and managed to match Barbosa thanks to her strong DTY (which had the highest vault score of the day of 14.85) compared to Barbosa’s FTY. Hypolito also didn’t have a great outing on floor, but was clean elsewhere, including with a huge 14.5 on beam.
Thauany Araujo competed on all but floor, where both Lorena Rocha and Leticia Costa stepped in, so I believe the alternate spot will be between the latter two. Costa was slightly better than Rocha, scoring a 13.55 to Rocha’s 13.45, and Costa also performed on vault, showing an FTY for a 13.8. Araujo, meanwhile, had solid work on her three events, including a 13.9 for her FTY, though neither her bars nor beam scores counted to the team total.
The German trio of Pauline Schäfer, Sophie Scheder, and Elisabeth Seitz placed second, third, and fourth, all within half a point from one another – Schäfer had a 56.3, Scheder was just behind with a 56.25, and Seitz hit for a 55.8.
Like Saraiva, Schäfer was pretty much at her best, aside from some slight mistakes on beam. She had a 14.6 on vault, the second-best of the day there, as well as a 14.2 on floor, a tricky event for the Germans in general. Scheder and Seitz were neck-and-neck on bars, as usual, tying one another with scores of 15.15 for their great work there, though their other events could use some more attention especially in the coming year.
Pauline Tratz competed everywhere but bars, and with a 14.1 on floor, more than proved her worth to the team. She also hit both vault and beam, and is showing that she’s a great addition in a difficult year. Griesser, competing everywhere but vault, was clean but doesn’t really have the difficulty to make a big dent, while Sarah Voss showed a clean vault but didn’t hit bars, earning just a 12.7 there.
Antonia Alicke, the alternate, competed on all four events though her scores didn’t count toward the team score. As usual, she faced trouble on bars, getting a 9.55, and her other routines weren’t quite up to par with the rest of her teammates’. She finished with a 49.9 total in the all-around.
Switzerland also competed this weekend, earning a team score of 217. Of course, Giulia Steingruber led the team, though she wasn’t at her best with falls on both bars and beam, finishing seventh in the all-around with a 55.3. She did look strong on vault, however, with a third-best event score of 14.45, and she posted the best floor score of the day with her 14.4 there.
Her teammate Ilaria Käslin was ninth with a 54.7 after a remarkably good day with little to no mistakes. While she’s not quite at Steingruber’s level, she consistently proves her worth to the Swiss team, as both of her beam and floor scores were second-best to Steingruber’s and her bars were third-best for the team, just a tenth behind Jessica Diacci’s 13.6.
Diacci, originally named to last year’s team but replaced at the last minute after not training hard enough and not looking in shape, is about on par with Käslin now, showing scores on vault, bars, and beam, that all contribute heavily to the team. Laura Schulte also did well, with a 13.95 on vault and a 13.6 on floor, though both Nicole Hitz and Caterina Barloggio struggled with mistakes and low difficulty in general.
It will be exciting to see if either Brazil or Germany can make the team final and a direct Olympics berth happen this year, but if not, they should be two of the top teams battling it out at the test event next year.
Full results are available here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins