Eight 2012 Olympians, including European vault champion Giulia Steingruber and two-time Olympic finalist Tomas Gonzalez, won the team title at the Tournoi de Schilteigheim Saturday afternoon near Strasbourg, France.
It was the first time the Schiltigheim tournament, organized by the Alsace club of the same name, has held a team competition. The program was inspired by the Pro Gymnastics Challenge held in Pennsylvania earlier this year, with gymnasts from each team facing off rotuine-for-routine on each event. For example, the competition began with Russia's Anna Pavlova, representing the blue team, and Greece's Vasiliki Millousi, representing the red team, facing off on floor. Each performed their routine, but Millousi's score was the higher of the two, so the red team earned a point. The team with the highest number of points at the end of the competition wins.
In the end, the team composed of Olympians Millousi, Fabian Leimlehner (AUT), Martin Konecny (CZE), Tomas Gonzalez (CHI), Giulia Steingruber (SUI), Fabian Gonzalez (ESP) and Elisabeth Seitz (GER), coached by former Spanish national team member Ignacio Losantos and all dressed in red Adidas, beat Oksana Chusovitina (UZB), Cyril Tommasone (FRA), Paul Ruggeri (USA), Anna Pavlova (RUS), Andrea Cingolani (ITA), Vanessa Ferrari (ITA), Eleftherios Petrounias (GRE) and Kristyna Palesova (CZE), who sported blue Christian Moreau. Former Soviet and Belarussian great Svetlana Boginskaya, currently in the midst of touring Europe, captained the blue team. The red team triumphed in part due to clutch performances from Seitz on beam (against Palesova), Leimlehner on pommel horse (against Petrounias) and Steingruber on bars (against Ruggeri. Yes, you read that right).
The competition format, which was also used at the Pro Gymnastics Challenge, has been discussed as an alternative to the traditional team scoring by NCAA coaches, most notably by the University of Illinois's Justin Spring, who sees it as a way to make team scoring easier for an audience to follow.
Also allowed at Schiltigheim: "Boomerangs," where coaches could decide to sub in a gymnast from the opposite team to compete in his or her gymnast's place, thus pitting two gymnasts from the same team against each other. Coaches were also allowed to pull a "Switch," meaning that in the event of a fall a second team member could compete on the event. Team members also earned points through "skill challenges," including one where Palesova and Seitz battled it out to see who could stick their bars dismount first (winner: Seitz).
In the aftermath of the World Championships, the Schiltigheim Tournament offered gymnasts a respite from super serious competition and afforded chances to showboat. The final two routines on high bar, from Leimlehner and Konecny, respectively, were more exhibitions than anything else: Leimlehner played the clown, while Konecny ripped off six Tkatchevs in a row, followed up with a Kolman and called it good, to the delight and applause of everyone on both teams.
Still, amidst the fun and games, preparations were being made. Petrounias, a well known Greek rings specialist, showed exercises on pommel horse and floor, no doubt using the experience to prep for bigger meets next year. Ruggeri, who recently moved to train at the U.S. Olympic Training Center under Vitaly Marinitch, tossed off a Kolman on high bar. France's Cyril Tommasone, an Olympic finalist on pommel horse, used the day to continue breaking in his new routine on his best event, which includes a trendy handstand pirouette to scissor sequence, a move popularized by Italy's Alberto Busnari.
But what was most notable about this tournament was the exceptional goodwill and camraderie between the two teams, who openly supported each other during every routine and gleefully clowned around when not on the apparatus. By the end of the day, everyone was pitching in with ideas on how Leimhener could make his high bar routine more of a crowd-pleaser. Both teams gladly posed for photos with young gymnasts from the Alsace region before heading off to a banquet dinner followed by a soiree in a Strasbourg nightclub.
The previous two editions of the Tournoi de Schiltigheim have been a traditional all-around competition. Pavlova and Spain's Javier Gomez won the all-around in 2012.