If there’s one thing we can expect at the annual Cottbus World Challenge Cup, it’s big performances from the host country’s stars.
This year, Germany’s three best performers – 2015 world beam medalist Pauline Schäfer, 2015 world bars finalist Sophie Scheder, and 2012 Olympian Elisabeth Seitz – will headline the field, which includes 44 women, many of whom are experienced competitors at the world and Olympic level.
In addition to the Germans, we’ll also see Lisa Top and Sanne Wevers, both of whom played integral roles in helping the Netherlands qualify a full team to the 2016 Olympic Games. They’re joined by teammate Noel van Klaveren in her return to international competition since dealing with an injury last year. Van Klaveren was unable to contend for a spot at worlds, choosing instead to rest and get healthy for this season, but if she brings her DTY back on vault she could be a major contributor for the Dutch this summer.
Other big names include six-time Olympian Oksana Chusovitina of Uzbekistan, two-time Olympian Marta Pihan-Kulesza of Poland, and 2012 Olympian Simona Castro of Chile, all of whom are seeking to add to their resumes by qualifying spots at the test event next month. Cottbus will be crucial in their preparation, and they are each expected to compete on all four events here.
We’ll also see the rising Swedish stars Emma Larsson, who already has two World Challenge Cup silver medals to her name this year, and Jonna Adlerteg, the fabulous bars worker who is mounting a comeback from her injury at Euros last year. Baku silver medalist on vault Tjasa Kysselef of Slovenia will also compete alongside teammate Teja Belak.
In addition to these experienced women, the field includes several young gymnasts making senior debuts, including Liu Jinru, Lu Yufei, and Wu Jing of China. They’re joined by Zhu Xiaofang, the 1999-born worlds alternate who excels on bars. While none of these is considered a top contender for China’s Olympic team this year, the competition here will be the first time most are judged at the FIG international level, which will be a big help when it comes to putting their routines in perspective with their more experienced teammates.
The World Challenge Cup in Cottbus will be held from March 31 through April 3. A full list of MAG and WAG contenders is below.
Noel van Klaveren
|Eduward Shaulov||Dilnoza Abdusalimova
Article by Lauren Hopkins