Watch out for the Germans. (I would, at this point, like credit for refraining from any and all World War II jokes for the entirety of this preview. Thank you.)
Germany hasn’t made a team final in approximately 186,000 years (it’s 5), but the squad the Germans will bring to Rio looks primed to recapture the nostalgic glory of those bygone, black-and-white era gymnasts like Seitz and Bui and Chusoviti…oh wait that’s still now.
Excitement over Germany’s potential has built lately following a team score of 174.25 in Chemnitz, coming directly after a trials performance from the five team members that would have translated to a 175.763 team score, both numbers good enough for bronze at last year’s world championship.
That’s an unrealistic expectation for this German side (those trials scores in particular had a hefty dose Laurie-Hernandez-domestically to them). Germany is going to come in several rungs behind the Russian and British teams and would need to root for meltdowns, but the idea of finally returning to an Olympic team final and knocking out a perennial qualifier is quite reasonable, verging on expected, given the scoring potential this team has shown.
Tabea Alt – 2016 Test Event AA bronze, beam split leaps for days, side aerial + loso + loso, that American Cup performance was not very representative
Kim Bui – Two-time German champion, back from the dead to do bars but also all the events, Bhardwajs like Peng
Pauline Schaefer – The Sch- one who’s good at beam, 2015 world beam bronze, did that physically preposterous side somi 1/2 that you still don’t understand
Sophie Scheder – The Sch- one who’s good at bars, 2016 German champion, toe pointing you into the grave, dismounted into a tub of leg anesthesia in the 2015 bars final
Elisabeth Seitz – Billion-time German champion, still alive, bars looks better than ever, still miss the def, and the shap 1/1
Project Olympic Lineups
Of all the countries, Germany has the most difficult lineups to pin down and the most challenging and numerous decisions to make regarding who will compete each event. The team basically has five even-steven AAers who could finish in any order on any given day. Who does the AA in qualification? We’ll see how it plays out. This is what I would do.
Vault – (Seitz) Scheder, Schaefer, Alt
Bars – (Alt), Bui, Scheder, Seitz
Beam – (Seitz) Scheder, Alt, Schaefer
Floor – (Scheder), Alt, Bui, Schaefer
I have Alt and Scheder as the only two AAers with this lineup, Scheder as the national champion and Alt as the one with the biggest upside. The trouble is that on most events, the 4th and 5th gymnasts are so even that they’re interchangeable, giving rise to a number of different, equally viable combinations.
I don’t have Bui on beam because I think she has the lowest scoring potential, but she could very easily replace Seitz on beam and vault to go into the lineup as a third AAer. Conversely, Seitz could stay on vault and beam and slip in on floor as well to get into the AA, though I think Scheder probably gets that floor spot over Seitz so that she can do AA herself.
See, isn’t it really clear and obvious?
Floor is the toughest lineup to settle on because, under normal circumstances, you’d definitely want Alt’s routine in there. Her last two floor scores, however, have been 12.766 and 12.800. That could mean she’s the one who loses a spot to Seitz since Seitz finished ahead of her at both trials and Chemnitz. I’d still give Alt a shot at the AA, but those floor scores may be cause for rethinking.
Theoretically, the easiest lineup is bars because Schaefer is well behind the rest of the pack in difficulty and should sit that one out. This was complicated somewhat when Schaefer finished as the top German at Chemnitz. Thanks a lot. Really, any of the five could do the AA in qualification.
Thankfully, the prospective team final lineups, should Germany get that far, are much clearer with three strong gymnasts emerging on each event. The only major question is what you do if Alt continues 12ing on floor in qualification. Do you take the risk in TF or just concede to eat a mid-13 from Scheder or Seitz? I’d still take the risk because…what do you have to lose? (Scheder on beam is also a hit concern, but no more terrifying than the other choices and with a higher scoring potential.)
There’s quite a bit more pressure on Germany’s qualification lineups because while the team absolutely can make the final, it is far from a given and will take defeating at least one of Brazil, Canada, Italy, or Japan. No small task.
The concern for Germany is the power events. They will be counting a yurchenko full on vault (along with a handspring lay 1/2) and will be using some floor routines with D scores in the low-mid 5s. That amounts to giving up 1.5-2 points to the countries listed above, leaving a tremendous amount of work for the bars and beam lineups to do.
It’s work they can do, though, because we should expect Germany to get some 15s on bars and some mid-14s on beam, which those other nations will not match. Using recent scores as a guide (with all the necessary home-meet caveats), Germany looks to have a chance to gain between two and three points on those nations because of bars alone, more than they’re giving up on vault and floor. That gain is far from guaranteed, though, and would require hitting each and every one of those high-risk routines. One fall on a presumed 15 and Germany is right back to earth with all the peasants.
It’s funny how much the identity of Germany’s team has changed in four years because, while those strong bars routines remain, Germany 2012 was first and foremost a vault team. They hoped that the big DTY, rudi, rudi combo from Seitz, Berger, and Chuso would propel them into the team final but ultimately found that catastrophic beam routines were too much to overcome. This year, Germany will be counting a yurchenko full on vault but relying on big beam scores from Alt and Schaefer to do a great deal of damage.
It’s always tough for teams that rely on bars and beam because of the higher fall factor, but Germany’s ability to hit those risky routines will determine whether the team finishes 5th or 10th, two results that both seem way too realistic given how different they are.
Considering the potential on bars and beam, I do think that if Germany delivers, this could be a Canada 2012 “where did that come from?” kind of team finish, but they will be particularly susceptible to a disappointing meltdown.
Germany will be pretty NCAA at the Olympics this year because IT’S ALL ABOUT THE TEAM and not about the all-around. A strong finish in the team competition is where Germany can truly make a mark, much more than all-around finishes.
Based on the 56-57 potential the entire team has been showing lately, the Germans should have no trouble getting two people into the final, but most of them have a yurchenko full and are quite likely to score at least one 13, if not two. Tabea Alt is the one who could legitimately go 14 on every piece—and at her best has the highest AA potential on the squad—but that floor routine is a concern and a high AA finish would be too much to expect from her at this point.
The German gymnasts will not be in significant contention for medals on vault or floor, so let’s dispense with those for the moment and focus on Germany’s good events, bars and beam.
Bars – Germany will have three gymnasts in contention for the bars final in Seitz, Scheder, and Bui. Bui will probably be the odd woman out because she doesn’t have the difficulty of the other two, even though her form is quite laudable and her routine is a joy to watch. She’ll be lurking ready to pounce if one of the others has a mistake, but it’s going to be hard for a 6.3 to get into the final with all the 6.6-6.7s around. If qualification goes well, we’ll see hit 6.4s and 6.5s that don’t make it back.
Scheder and Seitz are both among the 10 or so most likely gymnasts to get into the final, Scheder having made the final at worlds last year. Scheder has lovely extension and toes in her routine, with only a shoot to the high bar that looks like when the nannies get blown away in Mary Poppins keeping her routine from absolute brilliance. She should still get 15 but may be overshadowed by Seitz, who is not only still around but suddenly competing the cleanest bars routine of her career.
Seitz has always shown exciting bars work but would get hit too much for form on her most exciting skills to earn actual medals for it. These days, her composition remains difficult and risky but the routine is also smooth and comfortable and should go over very well indeed. She still has moments of legs, but they’re both fewer and less extreme than last quad. I’d say right now Seitz looks like Germany’s best bet to challenge the Fan, Downie, Kocian, Spiridonova club for those medals.
Beam – Germany’s beam comes down to Schaefer and Alt, who should both find themselves in the very large contending pack to make the beam final, one that will be winnowed down only by who hits in qualification and who doesn’t. Schaefer is our 2015 bronze medalist, who shows excellent spinnies and intelligent composition, though beam was so bizarre last year that I wouldn’t count that as reliable precedent for what will happen this time. In fact, I’d rank Alt as Germany’s most likely to make a splash on beam, given her combination of difficult acro connections and precise splits. She could score quite well and sneak in as a surprise challenger.