Following a trials competition held in Stuttgart on Saturday, the German federation named 2016 Olympians Tabea Alt, Kim Bui, Pauline Schäfer, and Elisabeth Seitz to this year’s world championships team.
The competition was a formality more than anything, with these four the nominative entries after competing well internationally all year, including two world cup wins for Alt, a silver on bars for Bui at the Summer Universiade, and several finals at Euros between Schäfer and Seitz, the latter of whom won the bronze on bars in Cluj while Schäfer placed sixth on floor.
This weekend, these four performed about as well as could be expected, with Alt and Schäfer topping the all-around podium while Seitz and Bui competed only on bars, with Seitz getting the gold with a 14.5 and Bui finishing third with a 14.1. Even though Schäfer finished second all-around here, Bui is also an all-arounder and will probably get to compete on all four events along with Alt in Montreal, as they’d want to put up her bars in qualifications over Schäfer’s, leaving Schäfer to focus on beam and floor while Seitz will probably compete only on bars.
Alt was the clear star of this meet, even with falls on both beam and floor. The 17-year-old who qualified third all-around at Euros but who had to miss out on the final due to illness debuted some exciting new skills in Stuttgart, and showed that she could be a podium contender in Montreal if everything goes according to plan.
Though she normally vaults just a Yurchenko double, Alt added a Lopez into her arsenal, joining a group of about ten other gymnasts who also compete this combination. Hers is one of the best, however, with her clean Lopez earning a 14.15 on her first try, averaging a 14.325 putting her in the top two or three among those who do this set. It won’t make her a major contender for a vault medal, but it could get her into the final.
Her biggest upgrades came on bars, however, where she competed a van Leeuwen into a Zuchold half and then a stalder front tuck half dismount, both new skills that could enter the code of points with her name on them.
The Zuchold half has actually been competed a couple of times, including by British gymnast Rowena Needham in 2013 and Olivia Vivian of Australia in 2014. Vivian was planning on competing hers at worlds that year, but the women’s technical committee said they’d rate it only a C because it didn’t go to handstand (the Zuchold, for reference, is rated a D). Alt didn’t really compete hers to handstand this weekend, but if she does, the skill could definitely get a D or E rating.
As for the dismount, given that the toe-on and clear hip versions are both rated a C, I don’t think this would get any higher, but it’s still a super cool dismount and her routine overall is just full of originality, spicing up an event that can so easily become mundane with so many gymnasts doing the same connections over and over. With a solid 14.2 and a difficulty score of 5.8 in Stuttgart, she won’t be one of the top bar workers coming into worlds, but her routine itself will absolutely leave an impression on the crowd.
Beam and floor were her problem events this weekend, with a fall on both, though she still posted the third-best scores to wrap up her competition with a 54.600 all-around. She otherwise looks great going into worlds, and I hope she’s able to actually make it through the competition this time around without any ailments holding her back.
Schäfer also looked fabulous this weekend, earning a 54.000 all-around — her best of the year — while posting the top scores of 13.7 on beam and 13.35 on floor, with a gorgeous routine there as always. It’s too bad she will again be the odd man out in terms of being unable to qualify as an all-arounder, with the other three all going up on bars, but that’ll leave her to focus on her two best events at worlds, especially coming in as the reigning bronze medalist on beam looking for more success on her signature event.
On beam, Schäfer opened her routine with a switch leap mount to immediate split leap to full Y turn, going on to hit a bhs loso series, double spin, her eponymous side somi half, front toss to split jump to ring jump, and a stuck gainer layout dismount. It’s not one of the most difficult sets out there, and some of her connections were a little sketchy, but she snuck in for a medal once before and a routine like this with others making mistakes could get her to the podium once again.
Seitz was in top form on bars, winning the title to secure her spot. She competed a Maloney to Ricna, Jaeger, Downie to Pak, van Leeuwen, and toe full to stuck full-in, coming in at a huge 6.1 D score, and looking mostly strong aside from a few form issues here and there, most notably on her van Leeuwen. She’s a finals contender for sure, but whether or not she medals will depend on the rest of the field. Once again, bars is where the majority of top talent is concentrated, and I can think of at least ten girls with a shot at the podium. But I have a soft spot for Seitz getting so close time and again, I hope this ends up being her year.
Bui, the bronze medalist at this year’s national championships at age 28, was also solid on bars, though not quite as polished as she looked at Universiade a few weeks prior. She hit her piked Jaeger, pak, Maloney to Bhardwaj, van Leeuwen, toe full to Gienger, and full-in all very well, but had noticeable form issues on her van Leeuwen, was crooked in her pirouette, and had a deep squatted landing on the full-in, a skill she just brought back after downgrading to just a double tuck for Universiade. A 14.1 was a good score for her with the issues, and while she won’t be among those in the top group on bars at worlds, she’s showing that she’s still super relevant to this German team in her fourth quad, with Tokyo 2020 absolutely within her reach.
As for the other girls who competed, we saw a few promising routines, but no one who showed they would be competitive over one of the four girls who ended up making it. Sarah Voss hit a clean Yurchenko full and tucked Lopez on vault, Carina Kröll showed some good work on beam, and Amélie Föllinger had a lovely floor, with the three earning the silver medals on these events, and Michelle Timm was the bronze all-around medalist, but none of them had scores that were particularly strong; Kröll’s hit beam scored just half a tenth higher than Alt’s routine with a fall, for example, Voss’ vault average of 13.55 wouldn’t get her close to the final at worlds, and Timm’s all-around score was just a 49.600, with falls on every event but vault.
We also saw Leah Griesser, but unfortunately the Rio alternate who just returned from making three finals at Universiade ended up getting injured on beam, which forced her to leave the competition early. Griesser has the coolest and most unique dismount series ever, a Valdez to back handspring to layout 1½, but she missed her back handspring completely, landing the skill on her head on the mat below. It looked scarier than it ended up being, I think, and she seemed more shaken up than anything.
The Germans have a super strong team capable of a couple of medals at worlds, and they will hopefully set a great foundation for the quad going forward. Like many other teams, they are going to be almost fully dependent on veterans, but those veterans all look to be in incredible shape, and once they do add a couple of the stronger rising seniors into the mix in the coming years, they could have great depth on the road to Tokyo.
Full results from the trials can be found here.
Article by Lauren Hopkins
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