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Faces of Gymnastics: Dream comes true in Doha for Seitz

 
Publication date : 21/11/2018

Winning a world medal fulfilled the dream of a lifetime, but Elisabeth Seitz has a lot more to give to the sport she loves.

Two weeks after Elisabeth Seitz (GER) won her first world championships medal, the German star has hardly had time to celebrate. On Sunday, she paired with Marcel Nguyen to win the Swiss Cup in Chiasso (SUI), the fourth victory for Germany at the mixed-pairs competition. Last week she competed at the Arthur Gander Memorial in Switzerland and this weekend she will compete at the Turnier der Meister, an Individual Apparatus World Cup competition in Cottbus (GER) that marks the beginning of Olympic qualification for Tokyo 2020 for individual gymnasts.

This is all normal for the notoriously hardworking Eli Seitz, who is hoping her best is yet to come as the world championships return next year to her hometown of Stuttgart.

On 2 November, two days before her 25th birthday, Seitz gave herself the best present by winning the bronze medal on Uneven Bars at the 2018 Artistic Gymnastics World Championships in Doha (QAT), where she competed at her eighth consecutive world championships since 2009.

“It was just my biggest dream to get a medal at a world championships,” a tearful Seitz said after the final. “I have some medals at a European championships and at World Cups, but it was just this one medal I always wanted to have!”

Prior to Doha, Seitz has finished just about everywhere except on the podium in Uneven Bars finals: fourth (2016 Olympics), fifth (2017 Worlds), sixth (2012 Olympics), and eighth (2010 Worlds). In Doha, she feared finishing out of the medals again. Third in qualification, and fourth in the finals lineup, Seitz debated whether or not to upgrade her difficulty in the final by connecting her Pak salto to Maloney transition, which would increase her D-score from 6.2 to 6.4, but which would increase the likelihood of a major deduction.

The night before the final, Seitz and her coaches decided to play it safe and stay with the 6.2 routine. The strategy paid off, as Seitz hit the routine cleanly, with just a hop on the dismount, for 14.600. Nina Derwael (BEL) won gold with 15.200 and Simone Biles (USA) finished second, one-tenth ahead of Seitz. It was an emotional moment for Seitz and her coach Robert Mai, after missing an Olympic medal by just .033.

In addition to being hardworking, Seitz is a friendly and outgoing sportswoman. As the final competitor, two-time Olympic champion Aliya Mustafina (RUS), competed in the Bars finals in Doha, Seitz cheered and applauded her as enthusiastically as she would her own teammate. Mustafina scored 14.433, not enough to push Seitz out of the medals.

“I think I just root for everybody because I know it's such hard work,” Seitz explained. “You go to the gym and you try to do your best, and it's such a hard sport. At the end, I always hope that everybody does a great routine.”

Seitz’s medal wrapped a successful competition in Doha for the German women, who surprised themselves by qualifying to the team final ahead of Great Britain, the bronze medallists from 2015.

“We knew it’s always hard to make in to the team final because there are many great teams, especially Great Britain,” she said. “We thought they were way better than we were. We showed that we are also a good team. We saw [we’re] close to a medal. It's not about 20 points [away], it’s just 1.5-2 points away.”

In October, Seitz won the German All-around title, her 20th national title. A native of Heidelberg, Seitz has lived and trained in Stuttgart for four years. When she was a young gymnast, she went to watch the 2007 World Championships, also in Stuttgart, an impressionable experience.

“I was dreaming that I wanted to stand there on the podium too,” she recalled with a smile. “My idol was Marie-Sophie Hindermann. She was my superstar — I wanted to be just like her! And now her mother is one of my coaches.”

Seitz, a pedagogical student at the University of Applied Sciences Ludwigsburg, has high hopes for the German team next year. She is optimistic about the return of Pauline Schäfer, the 2017 world champion on Balance Beam, and world championships bronze medallist Tabea Alt, who both missed Doha with injuries.

“I think we will be a little bit stronger, especially with Pauline and Tabea. Then nothing can stop us!”