Russia, Spain, and two German teams qualified for the team final session of the DTB Team Challenge this weekend, held in conjunction with the Stuttgart World Cup. While each team could drop one score during qualifications on Friday, Sunday’s competition was held in a three-up, three-count format, meaning that the stakes were much higher and no team could afford any mistakes if they wanted to end up on top of the podium.
Russia placed second in qualifications, but in the final, this was the only team that managed to nearly replicate their performance from Friday, only losing about three tenths in comparison to qualifications and finishing on top after other teams had to count quite a few mistakes.
Evgeniya Shelgunova and Natalia Kapitonova vaulted Yurchenko fulls while Elena Eremina showed a 1.5, which was the most difficult vault in the competition but lacked distance, had some noticeable form issues, and was landed off to the side. While the new quad has only just started, it is still a bit worrying that a lot of Russian gymnasts seem to struggle with comparably easy vaults while a solid Yurchenko double is basically compulsory once you turn senior in the U.S.
On bars Eremina came back to show great potential, hitting her Nabieva to pak as well as a clean van Leuween. Kapitonova, who hit four-for-four to once again win the unofficial all-around, also had the highest bars score of the day with a 14.250, hitting her 6.0 difficulty quite easily. Daria Spiridonova unfortunately had a bad day, though, as she fell at the very beginning of her routine on an inbar stalder and had trouble hitting her handstands.
Spiridonova managed to bounce back on beam, where she hit a nice Onodi and her only real trouble came on the dismount, a very low landed double back. Even though the DJ thought it would be a good idea to play “Skyfall” while Eremina was on beam she and Kapitonova had the two best sets of the meet, meaning Russia didn’t have to count any falls in a beam rotation, a pretty huge achievement for them on its own.
On floor, we got our first look at Lilia Akhaimova, who put up a mostly solid performance that included a double layout, a double L-turn, and a piked full-in for a 13.300. Kapitonova once again looked like the only Russian who actually does any conditioning, winning floor with a 13.500, where she had very nice landings on all of her passes and stuck her double pike to finish.
Eremina was last up on floor for Russia and luckily only needed about seven points to clinch the win. She incurred an out of bounds deduction on her 2½ to punch front and also had to put her hand down after coming up short on what was supposed to be a triple twist but turned out to be another 2½, meaning she also lost quite a few tenths in her D score.
Her 11.8 helped the team to a 159.550 for first place. Overall, it’s probably safe to say that Kapitonova should have clinched her spot for Euros with a very solid performance this weekend following an equally strong performance at nationals, while Spiridonova just doesn’t seem to be in competition form yet after the Olympics.
Germany I came in second place with a 154.100 after having to count quite a few mistakes in comparison to their performance in qualifications on Friday. They started on vault with two very nice Yurchenko fulls from Kim Bui and Helene Schäfer while Michelle Timm was going for a front handspring layout half but got it downgraded to a pike.
This country normally excels on bars, but due to some small issues from Timm and a downgraded routine from Elisabeth Seitz their team total on bars was only a 40.2, much lower than what they’re capable of. Bui was short on a couple handstands and had some form issues on her van Leuween but hit her Maloney to Bhardwaj beautifully as always, as well as her textbook-like Gienger for their highest score on bars, a 14.2.
On beam we got to see Carina Kröll, who had a few wobbles after her illusion turn and her side aerial but had an otherwise solid performance. Unfortunately Timm and Schäfer both had to count falls on beam and since Russia had hit beam, Germany was trailing by quite a bit going into the last rotation.
Kröll opened for Germany I on floor and got the audience to clap along to her “Hit the road, Jack” floor routine. She showed a very nice Memmel turn as well as mostly clean tumbles but stumbled out of bounds after her double tuck. Timm’s issues continued on floor, as she basically flew out of bounds after an otherwise clean double arabian and put her hands down after her 2½. She hit a very nice and high double pike, though, and finished with a strong double tuck.
In her second event of the day, Bui provided Germany’s highest score on floor. She managed to engage the audience from start to finish as well and showed a double layout, a double tuck, a nice 2½ to punch front, and a double pike for a score of 13.05.
Like both German teams, Spain lost quite a few points in comparison to qualifications on Friday, finishing in third with a 147.4. They started their competition on floor where they showed three nice routines, the highlight being Cintia Rodriguez, who had good leaps and turns as well as very clean tumbles. She also stuck every landing, including a gorgeous double pike. Her performance earned her the highest execution score on floor of the day and gave her a score of 13.05, while Nora Fernandez and Ana Perez both scored a 12.55 there.
Fernandez and Perez showed solid Yurchenko fulls on vault, outscoring both Kapitonova and Shelgunova thanks to their clean form. Paula Raya unfortunately had some form and landing issues on her own Yurchenko full, though, scoring a 12.9.
While they were doing good to this point, the Spanish ladies started having problems on bars. Rodriguez had to count a fall on a stalder and had lots of small form breaks throughout her routine, scoring only a 10.85. Perez had even worse luck, falling on her second skill, a piked Jaeger. She had to count two more falls after that before finishing with a big full twisting double layout as a dismount. Their best performance came from Raya, who hit all of her release moves as well as a nice bail to handstand for a 12.6. but their problems unfortunately continued on beam with falls from Perez and Fernandez, while Rodriguez placed third on beam with a 13.2, hitting her back handspring to layout stepout, as well as a nice Y-turn.
Germany II, the weaker of the two German teams, started off on floor as well with solid performances from Julia Plattenhardt and Amelie Föllinger, who placed third there with a 13.15. She showed a nice double L-turn as well as solid tumbles with clean landings, including a double layout as well as two whips into a double tuck and got the audience to clap along to her music. First-year senior Emma Höfele had an unfortunate start into the competition, though, sitting down her double arabian and her 2½ to score only a 10.9.
Höfele managed to come back strong on vault, getting the highest score for her team, a 13.75 for her front handspring pike half. Sarah Voss, who tried upgrading to a Yurchenko double last year, opted to only go for a full this time around, scoring a solid 13.6. Voss also was her team’s biggest cheerleader, always shouting encouragements and comforting her teammates when something went wrong. If she ever ends up in NCAA, she’ll fit right in.
Uneven bars unfortunately gave this young team trouble, with Plattenhardt and Isabelle Stingl counting falls. Höfele only scored a 12.0 due to form breaks and handstand issues but she showed great potential as well as a unique dismount, a double front half out.
Similar to Spain, their problems on bars continued on beam. Once again Höfele was their top scorer with a tentative and shaky routine, earning a 12.15. Sadly, Voss — who potentially can score in the high 13s — had a very bad day on Sunday, falling three times and only getting a 10.4, and the team finished in fourth with a score of 145.6.
The DTB announced the German team for European Championships during the competition at Stuttgart, and while Tabea Alt (who won the all-around world cup a day earlier), Pauline Schäfer, and Bui are locks, Seitz will have to prove at the upcoming training camp that she is ready. In case she doesn’t demonstrate readiness, the DTB named Timm as Seitz’s replacement.
Timm had one of the strongest performances of her career on Friday, unofficially finishing second all-around behind Kapitonova with four strong hit routines, but historically she’s been pretty hit-or-miss and doesn’t have an event strong enough to get her into any finals. I think if Seitz isn’t ready, it would be smarter to send one of the younger up-and-coming gymnasts with a shot at Tokyo 2020, like Kröll, Schäfer, or Föllinger. All three are promising but lack experience at major events, but a team spot at a meet like Euros could give them the experience that could help them contribute on bigger worlds or even Olympic teams in the future.
Article by Sina Rothfuss