With two of the biggest meets for selecting the German world championships team out of the way, the picture is becoming clearer, and if you haven’t been following the situation closely, you might see a few surprises in store.
The biggest news is that Emelie Petz has jumped to the top of the list, especially after this weekend. The first-year senior who swept nationals twice as a junior has been hit-or-miss throughout her career due to poorly timed injuries that took her out of training, kept her from upgrading, and led to inconsistent performances coming into this season. Her luck has been changing this year, however, and after making her major international debut at Euros where she competed just two events, she returned to the all-around with an excellent performance at Bundesliga, and then went on to finish fourth all-around while taking three apparatus medals at nationals.
At this weekend’s trials, Petz proved herself even further, finishing ahead of three veteran Olympians — Kim Bui, Elisabeth Seitz, and Pauline Schäfer — to win the all-around in addition to putting up top-three scores on vault, bars, and floor.
After nationals, I thought with everyone healthy, Petz would still be my alternate, but this weekend I think she really proved that she needs to be on the team, especially for what she’s capable of on beam, where her scores for weak routines are better than some of the Germans’ scores for hit routines.
On a bars-heavy team, Petz also contributes really strong work on vault and floor, though her bars would also be useful even if they’re not quite where the top gymnasts are, and she has a new dismount there she’s hoping to get named (a stalder front tuck full).
The issue with Petz is that she’s still so new to the senior scene, and while she has looked great and scored well at home, I’m still not sure if we can trust her internationally, especially with Germany needing to qualify a full team to the Olympic Games at home in Stuttgart. Though Schäfer and Sophie Scheder — who missed this trial meet due to a minor muscle strain but plans to stay in contention for the worlds team — haven’t been at a hundred percent in recent months, if they’re training to peak for worlds, I think both could possibly get the nod over Petz, who will then be relegated to the alternate position.
Schäfer didn’t have a great nationals, finishing sixth all-around and missing the beam final, but she came back with an excellent beam routine at worlds trials, winning gold on that event while finishing fourth all-around. The 2017 world champion on beam, her routine is still a must-have despite some issues with consistency over the past year, but she always seems to be on the mark in qualifications, which is what matters for the German team (which is wholly unreliable on beam as a whole, and a “risky” Schäfer beam is more valuable than a hit beam from most).
More of a question mark for me is Scheder, who missed the early half of this season due to injury but then came back in time for nationals, where she won bronze in the all-around and silver on bars. Though her beam had some rough patches at nationals, if she can put it all together in time for Stuttgart, it’s another routine that’s so clean and lovely it’ll be difficult to leave behind.
Right now, in my team puzzle, Seitz, Bui, and national champion Sarah Voss are my three locks for the worlds team, I think Schäfer will make it for beam, and then Scheder and Petz are the two I’m considering for that last spot, with Petz winning out for me, as she’s healthier and putting together a greater quality of routines at the moment. On bars, even though Scheder is technically the better bar worker, they’re more or less on the same page right now scoring-wise, but Petz is the much stronger option on vault and floor, and she’s the better option on beam based on routines over the past month.
Scheder obviously has seniority, and after nationals I had her on my team with Petz as the alternate, but I think Petz has been on an upward trajectory over the past month and is looking to be in peak shape for worlds, whereas Scheder is kind of just trying to stay afloat, and that’s what I think the most important difference is between the two.
Now that we’ve gotten the maybes out of the way, I’ll get into who I see as the locks, starting with the easy locks, Bui and Seitz.
Yes, 30-year-old three-time Olympian Bui is still irreplaceable on this German squad. She’s been killing it internationally all season, and then she showed up to win silver in the all-around and gold on floor at both nationals and at the first worlds trial meet, and she also finished second on bars and third on vault at trials, putting herself in the top three on three events to make her an easy option for the team.
Then there’s Seitz, fresh off of her first worlds medal last year. Though she missed out on the all-around podium at nationals after falling three times on beam in an otherwise excellent day, she came back to win bars and take the silver on floor, and she came back to win the all-around bronze at trials, again winning bars and putting up the second-best vault score to prove her worth as someone who is regularly a top option on multiple events, again making her impossible to ignore.
The issue with both Bui and Seitz is that beam is a weak spot for both of them, and so with both as regular locks for the team, beam becomes the problem child, and it’s likely that either Bui or Seitz will end up not doing beam in qualifications, meaning a top all-arounder won’t be able to do the all-around at worlds.
My pick this year would be Bui, based on nothing other than the fact that she’s been straight killing it and has truly earned the right to represent the country as an all-arounder. When you look at scoring potential, Seitz’s might be just a smidge higher due to her stronger bars set. When you look at what they could do for the team in qualifications, they’re pretty equal on vault, Seitz wins on bars, Bui wins on floor, and they’d both be the leadoff “let’s hope we can drop this score” on beam.
I think floor is what will get Bui into the all-around over Seitz, and while I think it’d be insane to see Seitz completely out of the all-around competition, unless something drastically changes in the coming weeks, it’s what makes sense.
Rounding out the team is Voss. After the team final at worlds last year, I tweeted that Voss earned “an automatic spot on every German team until she retires with a DTY and hit beam in a three-up three-count.” It was true then, and it’s even more true now that she’s the national champion who has earned a 13.5 or higher in all three of her beam routines so far this season, taking the title at nationals, where she also won the vault title.
Voss was brilliant at nationals, and in addition to crushing vault and beam, she also upgraded floor tremendously, performing a 1½ to front double full, triple full, double pike, and 2½. Like Petz, I think she’s on such a great trajectory right now, but the reason why I consider her a lock and Petz still on the fence is due entirely to her excellent consistency, especially on beam. As I said a year ago, that plus her DTY on vault gives her an automatic spot on this team, and despite missing the first worlds trial due to a minor nagging injury, she plans on returning for the second trial to make her selection official.
So based on what we’ve seen over the past month, that’s my team — Voss, Bui, and Petz in the all-around, Seitz on bars, and Schäfer rounding out the team on the other three events in qualifications, with Scheder the alternate. Of course, with one more trial to go, I’m sure there’s the potential for these gymnasts to change my mind, and I think some of the lineup decisions — like Bui or Seitz in the all-around — will come down to the last few minutes before official lineups are due after podium training, but I’d be more than happy with this team and qualifications lineup, and can’t see anyone else stepping in over these six.
My one wildcard would be first-year senior Lisa Zimmerman, who recently upgraded to a DTY on vault and also finished second on beam at the first worlds trial. Though her floor isn’t quite as strong, she makes a pretty solid replacement for Schäfer if needed, and though I think she’d be the second alternate at best, if we end up seeing a billion injuries taking out some top options, she should fit in seamlessly onto this team, especially after showing some great international performances at the Youth Olympic Games last year and at European Championships this spring.
Article by Lauren Hopkins