There was a sense of euphoric joy in Salzburg, where the entire Austrian team had gathered together in the gym to watch the livestream of the IRV Senior Team Trophy. A joint 1st place for Austria! Austrian national trainer Tanja Stöllinger and delegation leader Johann Pichler were overwhelmed: “This is the first time ever we won a medal in gold”, said Johann Pichler with a huge smile on his face! The achievement was even more exceptional given that the Austrian team had stepped in at short notice to replace the qualified team from The Netherlands who were unable to participate through lack of training.
The gold medal was shared with Team Germany. Both teams finished with 22 points and were closely followed by Team Japan with 19 points. A very young Team Switzerland took 4th place with 11 points.
But how did the virtual competition come to this result? Once again, we witnessed an exciting hour on the IRV YouTube channel livestream, brilliantly presented by the knowledgeable host, Hauke Narten.
Team Germany started with a bang in the 1st round of the competition – Lilia Lessel’s perfect spiral routine won the highest score (11.25) of the whole competition.
Many scores surpassed the 10 point boundary, but only Sarah Metz (Team Germany / Spiral) managed to get another score above 11 (11.15). The spiral routines of all teams were decisive. Japan placed its joker on Yasuhito Takahashi in spiral – a great performance that gained Japan full points despite a major deduction at the end of the routine. Austria was also very strong in spiral and this discipline was the bedrock for their success: Ingrid Vukusic performed a hands-free skill on the upper rim of the wheel, while Birgit Halwachs (score 10.40) and Malena Kernacs (score 10.05) showed that they mastered the spiraling wheel in an elegant, accomplished and flawless manner. Austria had waited until the final round to set its joker and this is what catapulted them into joint first place and a gold medal position. Malena Kernacs won the round, which meant that her 4 points were doubled to 8, and Team Austria were suddenly equal with the current leader, Team Germany.
More than 300 viewers followed the thrilling competition that was decided at the last moment. They saw some outstanding straight-line routines to music, in particular Yasuhito Takahashi (Team Japan / 10.60) and Kira Homeyer (Team Germany / 10.0). Training deficits due to the difficult pandemic situation were palpable, but did not take away from the general appreciation of being able to compete. Seeing Leonie Botta (Team Switzerland) with a mask on her face literally dancing on, in and around the wheel was as fascinating as admiring the energy in the routine of Isabel Pietro (Team Germany). Difficult vaults underlined the high level of this unique competition.
Asked what the most difficult aspect of the virtual competition was, Germany’s Birte Zelfel was clear in her answer – it was the week everyone had to wait for the results! The wait is over now, but there is no doubt that we are all looking forward to meeting again in the physical world – in one year’s time for the World Championships 2022 in Denmark.