Side by side with the Stuttgart All-Around World Cup competition, the German Gymnastics Federation organized a Team Challenge that featured a few teams from around the world, taking this opportunity to test out their team dynamics in this new season.
On the women’s side, Russia managed to take the title with 159.550 after finishing second during qualifications behind Germany. Featuring Elena Eremina, Daria Spiridonova, Lilia Akhaimova, Natalia Kapitonova and Evgenia Shelgunova, the Russian team started on vault with three scores in the mid-13s after somewhat messy FTYs from Kapitonova and Shelgunova and a Yurchenko 1.5 from Eremina, also with form issues. Contrary to tradition, bars was not a good event for them as well with only Kapitonova hitting her routine cleanly for a low-14, while Eremina posted in the low to mid-13s after a form break on her toe-on full and Spiridonova received only 12.550 after falling right on her first skill, an inbar circle on the low bar. Surprisingly, beam was actually a very consistent event for the Russian girls, far outscoring their bars total after Eremina, Kapitonova and Spiridonova all performed well to count three scores in the low to mid-13s. Lastly on floor, Akhaimova and Kapitonova had solid routines, posting in the mid-13s, while Eremina underrotated her triple twist dismount, forcing her to put her hands down on the mat and seeing it downgraded to a 2.5 twists, which she had already competed in her routine and therefore could not be counted again into her difficulty. All this greatly hampered her final score, which didn’t go beyond 11.800. This was the first international competition of the year for many of the Russian girls and some of the mistakes here were result of nerves and inexperience and should go away as the season progresses. Nonetheless, Kapitonova doesn’t seem to be fazed by this and once again proved to be the most consistent gymnast on the team, clearing any doubts that she should be on that Euros team in Romania.
After a great qualification round that put them in first place with over 160 points, the German team with Kim Bui, Carina Kroll, Helene Schaefer, Elisabeth Seitz and Michelle Timm didn’t have the same exhibition in finals and finished second with just 154.100. The Germans actually started the competition on a very high note on vault, with two scores in the mid to high-13s for Bui’s and Schaefer’s FTYs and Timm’s front layout half that unfortunately got downgraded to a pike. On bars they once again counted three hit routines, counting a low-14 from Bui, as well as mid-13 from Seitz and a mid-12 from Timm, both still competing slightly lower D-scores this early in the season. Despite these first two events putting them in first, the German girls were unable to hold on to the lead on beam and floor, counting big mistakes on both. On beam, their highest score came from Kroll with 13.000, followed by two scores in the mid-11s from Timm and Schaefer, the former counting a fall on her round-off to layout series and the latter on her double turn. Similarly on floor, Bui posted the best result in the low-13s, while Kroll received a mid-12 due to her lower difficulty and an out-of-bounds deduction and Timm posted in the low-11s after landing out-of-bounds on her double arabian and sitting her 2.5 twists. Despite not quite living up to it in finals, the Germans set quite a standard in qualifications, narrowly outscoring the Russians for the first position and reaffirming their value as one of the biggest teams in the European gymnastics scene. With two of their top players absent from this meet as they were competing in the World Cup on Saturday, the German team should be even stronger with them in the mix and should have a very successful competition at Euros, potentially challenging for the podium on multiple events.
Quite a few points behind the top two were bronze medalists Nora Fernandez, Ana Perez, Paula Raya, Cintia Rodriguez and Claudia Colom representing Spain, who finished their competition with 147.400. On the vault she showed 3 FTYs with Perez’s and Fernandez’s posting in the mid-13s, while Raya received a high-12 after a step out-of-bounds. Unfortunately on bars, they only counted a hit routine for a mid-12 from Raya, while Rodriguez and Perez both scored in the mid to high-10s after Rodriguez had a fall on her Endo half and a very low full-in dismount and Perez counted falls on her piked jaeger, Gienger and clear hip full in what was a very heartbreaking routine. Heavy mistakes continued to plagued them on beam with Perez falling on her side aerial and stumbling on her double tuck dismount for a low-11, while Fernandez fell on her LOSO mount and her side somi for a score in the 10s range, with only Rodriguez performing her exercise cleanly for a low-13. Luckily, they were able to count three hits on floor, with Rodriguez receiving a score in the low-13s, while both Perez and Fernandez posted 12.550. While this was not the cleanest competition for the Spanish girls, there were some very good moments of gymnastics in their performances and they gained valuable experience that should help them compete more confidently in the future.
Outside the podium was the second Germany team composed of Emma Hoefele, Isabelle Stingl, Sarah Voss, Amelie Foellinger and Julia Plattenhardt with a final score of 145.600. On vault they counted three scores in the mid-13s after successful FTYs from Voss and Foellinger and a clean front pike half from Hoefele, while on bars their highest score was 12.000 for Hoefele’s hit routine, followed by a mid-11 from Plattenhardt who fell on her jaeger and a mid-10 from Stingl who had some form errors on a pirouette and a fall on her double pike dismount. On beam, they were able to count two scores in the low-12s after Foellinger fell on her double spin and Hoefele had a wobbly routine, as well as a score in the mid-10s from Voss who unfortunately counted three falls in her routine, on her LOSO mount, her switch half and her BHS to LOSO series. Lastly, on floor they had two solid exercises from Foellinger and Plattenhardt, posting in the low-13s and low-12s, respectively, but also counting a high-10 after Hoefele fell on her double arabian and 2.5 twists. While this was more of a B team for the Germans, this was a great opportunity for many of these girls to compete on a big stage against some of the biggest stars in gymnastics. Hopefully they can continue to practice the sport they love and get some more of these chances to shine in a big arena.
On the men’s side, Russia took the title with 167.262 after Kirill Potapov, Dmitri Lankin, Vladislav Poliashov, Sergei Eltcov and Maksim Sinichkin had a successful competition on every event but high bar. Competing just two gymnasts apiece unlike the girls’ three competitors, the Russians counted two scores in the high-13s on floor from Potapov and Lankin after the latter incurred in out-of-bounds deductions on his 2.5 twists to front double full and his double front, before moving on to pommel horse where they posted in the mid to high-13s thanks to Eltcov’s and Poliashov’s efforts. Rings was time for another two hit routines from Lankin and Potapov to receive scores in the mid-14s and high-13s, respectively, while on vault Lankin performed a front handspring 2.5 twists with a step out-of-bounds, scoring in the mid-14s, and Potapov performed a low Roche vault for a high-13. They once again received scores in the low to mid-14s on parallel bars from Poliashov and Lankin, who had some issues with handstands and finally on high bar they posted only in the mid-13s after Poliashov fell on his double twisting double layout dismount and Eltcov fell on his Kolman release.
In second place was Germany with Ivan Rittschik, Felix Pohl, Philipp Herder, Marcel Nguyen and Christopher Jursch after scoring a total of 166.730. On floor, both Rittschik and Pohl scored 13.433 after some low landings and difficulty, while on pommels Rittschik received a mid-14 and Herder scored in the high-12s after a fall. Nguyen and Herder were both successful on rings, posting in the mid-14s and low-13s, respectively, mostly due to the low D-score of the latter, also hitting their routines on parallel bars for a score in the high-14s for Nguyen and low-14s for Herder. Their teammates Jursch and Pohl were the German representatives on vault and high bar, both posting in the low-14s on the former, while on high bar Jursh received a low-14 and Pohl a mid-13 for his exercise.
The bronze medal then belonged to the Japanese men with 164.763 after some mistakes throughout the day. The team of Fuya Maeno, Takahiro Goshima, Kenta Chiba, Kazuya Takahashi and Yuto Kato received two mid-13s on floor from Maeno and Goshima after some big errors on their performances, while on pommel horse they counted a mid-14 from China, as well as a mid-13 from Takahashi. On rings, Takahashi was more successful, posting in the low-14s, while Goshima had mistakes once again for just a mid-13. Vault was another hit event for Chiba who received a score in the mid-14s but Takahashi scored only in the high-12s, suggesting a fall on his part, which also happened on parallel bars where both he and Chiba posted in the low to mid-13s. Finally on high bar, Chiba was able to recover a bit and score in the low-14s, while Maeno didn’t go beyond the mid-13s range after some errors in his routine.
In fourth place was Great Britain with Frank Baines, Dominick Cunningham, Joe Fraser, James Hall and Courtney Tulloch, after posting a total of 162.029, followed by Spain with Nestor Abad, Joel Plata, Ruben Lopez, Alberto Tallon and Adria Vera in fifth place with 160.296 and lastly Switzerland with Taha Serhani, Marco Rizzo, Sascha Coradi, Marco Walter and Oliver Nicola Hegi in sixth place with 154.995, after losing Walter to injury right on the first event, floor, and being forced to count the score for his incomplete routine, just 9.533.
Looking at this meet as the first team competition since Rio for most of these gymnasts and even the very first competition since then for some of them, it’s to be expected that things aren’t yet as perfect as they could be and that most gymnasts are still far from their peak form. Nonetheless, this was a very interesting competition to see how these countries are adapting to the rules of the new Olympic cycle and provided a great opportunity for many gymnasts to perform in front of a packed arena, which can be hard to come by in other countries. With Euros just around the corner, most teams will be planning to look at their athletes’ performances here as another factor for deciding who will make their way to Romania later this month and we should expect an amazing show of gymnastics featuring the very best of the Old Continent.