Germany’s Strongest Olympic Team Ever

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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

29 thoughts on “Germany’s Strongest Olympic Team Ever

  1. This will probably be the hardest Olympics for me to watch because I absolutely love all 12 teams competing. Unfortunately I feel that Belgium, France and the Netherlands will be the bottom three teams leaving 3rd through 9th unpredictable in quals. It’s literally anyone’s game for that bronze medal!

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  2. I’m getting a little frustrated with people and their imaginations regarding the podium. First GB and now Germany has bronze “well within their reach”?! I mean come-on. Not only that but Germany will be challenged by brazil and canada for the spot…. what?! Bronze will go to Russia or China with the fourth place team far behind. Just because Romania doesn’t have a team this year doesn’t mean there will be a new big four, or that a country Germany will all of a sudden excel at gymnastics and make the podium. I know we all want to see a good competition but pretending that the podium wont consist of the usual top three seems silly. Yes Germany is decent and could make some finals, but no, bronze is not well within their reach. Bronze is very very far out of their reach unless gymmageddon occurs.

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    • I’ve actually done the math for potential. It’s the US with a clear lead, then China has a clear lead over Russia. Russia’s potential isn’t that much greater – only about two points – than the next grouping, which is Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and Brazil. Then close behind that is Japan, Italy, France, and the Netherlands. Belgium is in a clear last at the moment due to injury. Russia can and likely will win bronze, but if they have four falls again this year like they did last year, they’d be lucky to get sixth if all other teams hit. No one is saying these teams will become a new “big four.” But as in 2015, Russia doesn’t have the leeway to muddle through and still come out with a medal. Or do you pretend 2015 didn’t happen? 🙂 Bronze is “within the reach” of Germany, Great Britain, Canada, and Brazil is Russia has another day like they did in 2015. Or 2014. Or 2012. Or 2011. Again, these teams are so close, if Russia counts two falls, any of the next four can fight for bronze. It’s all about who hits when it counts. #Gymnastics101

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      • I would be really interested in seeing your math Lauren in a preview. 🙂 I assume by “potential” you mean D scores? Or average scores for hit routines (i.e. no falls)? Anyway, I cannot tell you how much I look forward to reading your posts after work. It’s become a part of my daily routine! Thanks again for all you do.

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      • I have done the math as well and Russia is well ahead of GB, followed by Brazil, and then Germany. Obviously if any team has multiple falls then their spot would be in jeopardy, but predictions are not based off “if this team falls 4 times and everyone else is perfect”. You’re basing the Russians current team performance on their performance last year when only two of the members of the 2015 team are on the 2016 team. Additionally, 3 of the 4 falls last year were caused by girls who are no longer on the team! It’s just not realistic tof claim that they are going to have multiple falls this year based off what happened in a different year with a different team. Russia will likely have 1 fall and will still outscore the Germans on beam and every other apparatus. If any team could capitalize on a poor performance from Russia, it’s GB REGARDLESS of their performance at Euros because in gymnastics, current performance cannot be assumed based on previous competitions (except in the case of Gabby Douglas where past performance outweighs all current performances) 😁)

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        • I’m not basing their potential this year on how they performed at worlds last year. I’m basing it on how they’ve looked so far in 2016, like at Euros where they were again behind Great Britain in the qualification session using the same three-up three-count they’ll see in team finals here. And they showed in team finals that when they do hit, they are the better team, which is exactly what I said. BUT they can’t afford falls. No one is saying they will do exactly the same things they’ve done in the past but when a team has a history of counting falls in every single team final in the past two quads, things don’t really look that great for them, lol. “Potential” has nothing to do with averaging scores and saying “yay this is exactly how it will work out!” Doing the math for potential takes hit rate into account. It takes the current status of the team (a recent report from Round Lake said Aliya still isn’t fully back, Melnikova has a hamstring injury, and some other drama I can’t remember). If you think they’re going to show up at the Olympics looking different than they’ve looked in the past 8+ years, you’re sorely mistaken. As I’ve said 800 times, they still have the greatest potential for bronze. No one is arguing that. They can fall once, MAYBE twice in team finals and still probably get bronze which is what I’ve been saying all along. BUT there is a POSSIBILITY that more than just two falls will happen. I’m not saying it will, I’m saying it COULD because ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN. And if that DOES hypothetically happen, several teams have the POTENTIAL to get on the podium ahead of them. I don’t know what kind of math you’re doing (I’m assuming averaging which doesn’t take enough into account to be accurate) but Great Britain, Germany, Canada, and Brazil all have the POTENTIAL to take advantage. They’re all so close (deviating within a point of one another if all hit 12 routines), it’s impossible to say which of these four could make it happen. The Euros team final had teams coming in with similarly close margins with France the one to beat for bronze but the others close enough to take advantage of France’s mistakes, which is exactly what happened in qualifications, though in finals France made up for a bad QF day and rightfully won bronze because they were the best team among the bronze contenders with everyone hitting. For the 90,000th time, Russia will likely win bronze. But if they do have a “fluke” bad day (fluke, ha, I think a fluke for them is a GOOD day), these four other teams all have the potential to take advantage. Even if GB’s scores average out to be better than Germany’s, when you look at total potential there are four teams that could conceivably win bronze. It will all depend on who actually gives the best performance when it counts. Averages are literally meaningless in a three-up three-count situation. They take in literally zero other variables.

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      • Do you think the draw in qualifications will have any impact on things? Russia, China, Canada, and Brazil are all starting on beam….GB and the Dutch will be on bars…Japan and Italy start on vault and the U.S. and Germany start on floor. I understand that ideally, it doesn’t matter where you start….but factoring in potential and consistency, do you think it will?

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      • Agreed. Germany has the potential to take advantage if Russia makes several mistakes and they make none (so incredibly unlikely). That is much mor accurate than “bronze is well within their reach”. I dont use averages because we all know someone like Kocian is going to be scored nowere near her average of 15.7 (LOL). I use D scores in combination with average E scores, adjusting for outliers. It seems very effective to me but the new code with all the connection bonuses makes it difficult to determine D scores because they arent consistent. I have USA for gold, previously challenged by China before they lost Tingting. Now Russia can contend for silver (very unlikely. GB follows safely behind with a very risky beam lineup after choosing Tinkler over Jupp, and Brazil very closely behind (I think home court advantage will put them 4th). And the rest are further behind and I dont think their order matters. No matter what, I hope everyone does well and that the judging is accurate.

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      • This argument had me look up Russia’s performance in World and Olympic team finals post Soviet Union break up. It becomes really clear that they’ve been declining. They won no Olympic gold medals and the only world gold medal was 2010. They won silver in 97, 99, and 11. Bronze in 94, 06, 14. No medal at all in 93, 07, and 15. They do seem to far slightly better at the Olympics getting silver in 96, 00, and 12 and bronze in 04. But getting no medal at all in 08. It kind of seems like they’re given a lot of benefit of the doubt because of how good the Soviet team was, but looking at past results they can’t be assumed to always win team medals. Especially with other countries starting to catch up. Like you said, if they go 11 or 12 for 12, they’ve got a medal, but they definitely can’t get comfortable.

        Personally, I’d love to see one of the non traditional powerhouse countries get a medal. I’ve got nothing against Russia at all. But I think the increasing parity between the big four (or big three these days) and the other teams can only be positive for the sport.

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      • Considering Russia has only been competing for 2 decades, I think they have done very well. It took the US what, 6 decades to win a team gold? 2008 was definitely a rough year for Russia but to come back 4 years later as the most decorated team in gymnastics is huge. I think they have done extremely well for themselves considering they are the youngest member or the big four, and will remain a top nation for a good long while. Sure it would be nice if other nations could challenge the top four (three this year), but I also enjoy the long standing competition between the top four.

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      • I think a lot of fans think of Russia as being an extension of the Soviet Union instead of a brand new country simply by virtue of it having been the largest and most well represented portion of the USSR in terms of their gymnasts, with Ukraine a close second, and then Belarus. After all, Round Lake is in Russia, and after the 96 quad, when countries were still using Soviet trained gymnasts, the only other country aside from Russia to stick around was the Ukraine, and they only had sporadic successes and never as a team. Comparing Russia’s results with the Soviet Union does show a huge drop off. However, Russia isn’t the Soviet Union and as a country having to find its feet and get used to many, many changes (especially in funding and loss of coaching talent) they have done very well. Are they less consistent? Certainly, but again, no one is as consistent as the former Soviet Union was. Their dominance, consistency, beauty, originality, and difficulty (for the times) will never be matched. (Sorry for the run on sentences!)

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        • Fully agree. Russia didn’t come out of nowhere and build a program up from scratch. Most of the Soviet gymnasts were Russian, and with the breakup of the USSR, the Soviet system basically translated over to Russia. Different and new country but the transition was pretty seamless so even if the country itself is only two decades old, the program dates back to the mid-century. They definitely didn’t start from scratch in the 90s.

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    • Russia has a lot of bad vibes in their party right now. Potentially being banned from the Olympics, constant injuries to their top girls. Lauren is right in saying that they aren’t guaranteed bronze. Plus floor is going to be a low scoring event for them which could actually cost them a medal. If they hit across the board then there is no doubt in my mind they will medal

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  3. I’m really excited for Germany actually. Every year, I always say, “Well maybe this year they’ll make team finals! They’re really good this year, I know they can.” But, it hasn’t happened yet, and I REALLY want it to happen with this team. Probably one of my favorite olympic teams because I LOVE every gymnast on it, and I so badly want Germany to succeed with this super strong team. My goals for Germany:
    TF, possible 3rd or 4th place finish? (I’m hoping…)
    1-2 Beam Finals Spots (Schaefer and Alt)
    2 Bars Finalists (Seitz and Scheder)
    2 AA Finalists (Not sure yet… but probably Alt and Scheder… possibly Seitz)
    Tbh I doubt floor finals is going to happen for any of them even with mistakes from others, but I actually think a lot of this can happen, IF they hit in qualifications.

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  4. I definitely agree that Germany has the best team they ever produced since East Germany was in existence. The tough part for them isn’t so much for the team but who goes up where. Scheder is probably automatically in due to her being the top ranked gymnast for them the entire year. I actually disagree on Schaefer, she’s the second all arounder, and can afford to absorb her bars score in qualifying if Bui, Seitz or Scheder falls. I would leave Alt out on bars, not so much because she can’t make the all around or isn’t as good as the other three,
    but because I don’t think she’s shown that she can hit four for four yet. But I agree that Seitz will sit out all but bars because that’s the only place she contributes.

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  5. Do you think the draw in qualifications will have any impact on things? Russia, China, Canada, and Brazil are all starting on beam….GB and the Dutch will be on bars…Japan and Italy start on vault and the U.S. and Germany start on floor. I understand that ideally, it doesn’t matter where you start….but factoring in potential and consistency, do you think it will?

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    • China is on beam and in the first subdivision! Talk about an unfortunate draw. I think starting on beam is the least favorable and preferred draw. For teams where beam is typically an inconsistent event it can really get into your head starting out on that event. I think also that the crowd support for Brazil has potential to disrupt the focus of the teams competing with them in that subdivision, like in 96 with how loud and raucous the fans were in Atlanta. As a teenager and an American I was so excited that I didn’t think anything of it. In hindsight, the crowd really was disruptive even before the vault.

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      • Yeah they’ve already predicted that the energy in Brazil is gonna be crazy. The girls who competed at the test event got a little taste of it but it’ll be even more charged at the Olympics. I don’t think the noise should have too much of an impact, though..if anything, people will struggle with the pressure of just being at the Olympics. Starting on beam is a very tough draw. I’m actually a tad bit concerned about the U.S., too. They’re hella bouncy even without the extra adrenaline….starting on floor rather than finishing there didn’t bode well for Aly at Worlds last year. Qualification is sooooo important. We can afford a few mistakes in the team and all-around finals but everyone has to get there, first. Can’t afford any major mistakes anywhere.

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      • Dasha, I certainly hope so! I don’t think the Atlanta audience was anything other than aggressively excited for the Americans (and that was bad enough). However, I don’t recall them booing or being excessively loud when another gymnast was competing in order to disturb them. (It probably felt that way to many though if they were on an event when an American finished). They were thunderous (and I admit obnoxious) when the US gymnasts completed their routines and enthusiastic throughout floor routines. I have watched footage of meets where mistakes by non home country gymnasts were applauded and cheered (not in the “its okay, you’ve got this” way), and I wish I could remember where I read it but wasn’t there some issue during some of the events at the Pan Am games in Rio back in 2007? I just have a vague recollection of something being mentioned about it. And wasn’t there a very long delay at the test event after the rotation with Brazil finished because fans were leaving?
        I completely understand that the Brazilian audience will be energetic, excited, and extremely supportive of their team. I just hope it doesn’t translate into a disruptive atmosphere because Atlanta really was out of line and that shouldn’t happen again.

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        • Yes, at Pan Ams in Brazil in 2007 the crowd basically booed other teams, tried to distract them on beam, etc. They’re a VERY supportive crowd but that shows most for the Brazilian team. I think things at the test event were great because it seemed like there was more support for the non-Brazilian teams, and at the Olympics the crowd is going to be more mixed in terms of nationalities…like, no one travels to Brazil for Pan Ams but everyone comes for the Olympics and that should help even things out a bit so you get their crazy loud support but also others balancing out who the support goes to, haha.

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    • They were 7th at Europeans but only one of their Olympians was on the squad. Bui hadn’t peaked yet (still had a good showing) and the rest of the girls on the team weren’t even contenders. Two of their Olympians this year weren’t on the team at Worlds (Bui was injured and Alt was too young) and they didn’t do so great in qualifications. Now they’re one of the best bars teams in the world, they have two DTYs, some great beam workers, and better difficulty on floor. Obviously the Russians are the heavy favorite for third but Germany is right up there with team GB and Brazil. Like someone else said, this is the strongest team the Germans have had in recent history.

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      • They got a 223.977 at the Olympic test event, without Bui. This would have safely qualified them in 6th place, about 3.2 points off of third. They would have to hit and other teams would have to falter, but that’s true for just about everyone. But it isn’t quite a ten point improvement anymore.

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        • Yup! There are a few teams in that position…Russia’s potential is about a 175 ish and the rest are about 172-173. A couple of falls/mistakes from Russia opens the doors. There’s still the advantage for them but it’s not going to be like 2012 where they can fall a million times and still pull out silver.

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  6. Really excited for this team, especially Scheder, who has really been impressing this year.

    Thanks for the mention concerning 1992 Team Finals procedures.

    A note of clarification– at the Olympics in 1996, all teams still competed in team finals (as compulsory and optional scores were needed for all-around and event final qualifications,). But Germany did not compete as a team in Atlanta since they did not place in the top 12 at the 1995 Worlds. Stark and Pioch competed as individuals. The first Olympics to have qualifications into team finals was 2000, when there were no more compulsories.

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  7. Pingback: Speculating Olympically: WAG Team Final | Extra Twist

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