In one of the least dramatic team selections of the season, the German federation opted for the five most obvious choices – Elisabeth Seitz, Pauline Schäfer, Sophie Scheder, Kim Bui, and Tabea Alt – for this year’s Olympic Games.
These five topped the all-around competition both at nationals and at trials, all finishing within a point from one another at each of the meets, with a full three-point separation between this top group and anyone else in Frankfurt on July 9. The decision was a clear and easy one for national team coach Ulla Koch, with the alternate role the only question mark in their team picture.
At the end of the day, it went to Pauline Tratz over Leah Griesser, who has been so strong and consistent this year, though Tratz’s strengths on vault and floor balance the team’s overall strength on bars and beam quite nicely. They essentially have built-in alternates on bars and beam, so Tratz will primarily train to step in on the others if needed.
Scheder, who won the national all-around title a couple of weeks earlier, once again won the all-around, and this time with her personal best of 58.066. 2012 Olympians Seitz and Bui placed second and third with scores of 57.498 and 57.266, respectively, while Schäfer was fourth with a 57.099 and Alt was fifth with a 57.065. Alt had the highest score on vault with her DTY as well as on beam with a massive 15.2 for her awesome set, Seitz won the bars title with a narrow defeat over Scheder, and Bui and Schäfer tied for first on floor with scores of 14.133.
Almost all of the top three scores belonged to those in this top five group, with the exception of a 14.2 from Michelle Timm on vault (the third best) and Tratz’s 13.933 on floor (also third). Beyond the top five, all-around finishers included Sarah Voss in sixth with a 53.799, Griesser in seventh with a 53.798, Timm in eighth with a 53.299, Tratz in ninth with a 52.866, Maike Enderle in 10th with a 52.798, Carina Kröll in 11th with a 52.466, Amelie Föllinger in 12th with a 51.832, and Nadja Schulze in 13th with a 51.598.
The last time the Germans competed in a team final was in 1992, when any team competing in prelims automatically competed in finals as well. Since the current format that requires teams to qualify came into existence in 1996, Germany has always been left outside, coming closest in 2012 though missing out in the end by a point.
This team not only has the ability to qualify to finals, but they actually have the potential to challenge for the bronze medal. If you do the math, their averages this season currently place them around fourth behind the United States, China, and Russia. But with Germany looking stronger than ever right now, that bronze medal is well within their reach, especially if they are able to take advantage of mistakes from another program. Great Britain made it happen to win bronze over Russia last year, but Germany is definitely one of the favorites to sneak in next month.
Great Britain will present a challenge, though, as will Brazil and Canada. Almost all of the teams beyond the top three are pretty close, actually, so it’ll all come down to whoever hits. But that aside, Germany is looking fabulous and they’re gearing up to peak at exactly the right time.
In addition to a strong team finish, they should also be able to place two all-arounders in that final in addition to Seitz and Scheder on bars, with both Alt and Schäfer contenders for the beam final as well.
With all five on pretty much equal ground, it’ll be interesting to see which three end up doing the all-around in qualifications. I think Schäfer is automatically out, as her bars are so far behind the other four, and Alt is automatically in because she’ll contribute a top three score on all four events if she hits.
With her two titles in the past month, Scheder is also in for me, meaning the final all-around spot will be between Seitz and Bui. I think Bui is slightly better on beam and floor, so she may be the one who ends up going in with Seitz kind of relegated to a bars specialist role, though it’ll be a close call and I think Koch will wait until the deadline to decide for sure, so she has an idea as to who is looking the absolute best.
As a last-minute prep for the Games, several members of Germany’s Olympic team will compete in a friendly meet in Chemnitz this weekend. They depart for Rio de Janeiro early next week, where they have the potential to give Germany its best Olympic gymnastics finish ever.
Article by Lauren Hopkins