Photos Courtesy Swiss Cup, by Thomas Ditzler
A Competition with (An Extra) Twist!
By Chris Korotky
At a time when gymnastics competitions in general could use an infusion of creativity, the Swiss Cup delivered, with a unique format and festive atmosphere enjoyed by a capacity crowd (~7,000 fans) at the Hallenstadion Zurich on November 3.
Founded in 1982, the Swiss Cup is a bracket elimination competition that allows male and female athletes to select which events they compete on over four rounds (one repeat event allowed), then combines their scores to determine placement and prize money. Ten pairs started the day, with eight advancing to round two, and the top four moving on to the new-life, two-round finals.
2020 Olympic hopefuls Allan Bower and Jade Carey of Team USA brought home the win, becoming the first American duo since Shannon Miller and Scott Keswick in 1991 to claim the Swiss Cup—which, ironically, is not a cup at all, but two grip-shaped plaques—and 25,000 Swiss francs (approximately $25,200) in prize money.
In the ultimate match-up, Bower and Carey competed on floor (14.45) and vault (14.625), respectively, to edge a Ukrainian duo made up of World Champion Oleg Verniaiev and Diana Varinskya, after the latter fell off beam in the final, head-to-head match-up.
“The competition was awesome,” Bower said shortly after returning to the U.S. “The entire stadium was sold out and competing with Jade was great. We were energetic and high-spirited the entire time. It was pretty surreal to stand on top of the podium and hear the National Anthem being played.”
Swiss pair Giulia Steingruber and Oliver Hegi combined for a 29.25 to claim third ahead of Germany, represented by Elisabeth Seitz and Andreas Toba. (Fun fact: Toba’s father, Marius, claimed the Swiss Cup crown in 1988, representing Romania with Gabriela Potorac.)
Other notable competitors this past weekend in Zurich included, 2018 World All-around Champion Artur Dalaloyan, who contributed a meet-high 15.4 on parallel bars in round two, but was eliminated after partner Alexandria Schekoldina faltered on floor.
A two-time World floor medalist and current World Cup floor points leader, Carey elected to skip her best event, and instead perform on vault and bars in the preliminaries, then beam and vault for the finals. (Athletes must declare their events for all four rounds before competition begins.)
“The format of the competition was very different from a normal meet,” Carey told Inside. “Being able to strategize and choose which events to do for each rotation made it very interesting. I am glad I had the opportunity to make my international debut on bars and beam.”
Carey had the second highest score for the women in round one with a 14.6 vault total, before earning a 13.55 for a clean, but lower value (5.4 start), bars set in the second. In finals, Carey lead off with beam (12.95), before vaulting to victory.
“It was really fun competing with Allan,” Carey said. “He’s a very consistent gymnast, and I knew I could count on him to hit.”
And hit the three-time U.S. World Team alternate did, notching 14.1 or better on each of his events, starting with a 14.1 round one floor performance, 14.2 on p-bars and 14.3 on horse before wrapping it up with his highest score of the night in his final floor outing.
“My overall performance was pretty good,” said Bower, “with scores of 14+ on every event. I am very happy to have had this opportunity to represent the USA.”
Both Americans went in with something to prove—Carey showing she can hold her own on her traditionally “weak” events, and the often-overlooked Bower not only confirming his consistency, but putting up strong numbers internationally—and left as champions.
“The Swiss Cup was a really fun meet,” said Carey. “The arena was full, and the fans were amazing, cheering us on and making it exciting.”
======= Taking the Atmosphere Up a Notch!
The Swiss Cup format was a hit with fans, and combined with a terrific in-arena atmosphere, the crowd went wild! Event organizers promised a “first-class” entertainment experience and they delivered.
Though rare now, mixed team formats used to be more prevalent in the sport. In the 1980s and 1990s, a number of high profile meets followed this format. Fans of that era may remember the International Mixed Pairs competition.
In-arena experiences – as well as television formats – are incredibly important for the audience reception and it’s great to see event organizers raising the production value of competitions to make for a great fan experience.
The International Gymnastics Federation has put significant resources into upgrading the fan experience over the last several years at World Championships, utilizing gigantic video boards to help fans follow along, incorporating an area where gymnasts sit to await their scores, more celebrated introductions (where fans now eagerly wait to see teams like Belgium and France present their walk-out choreography) and colorful commentary.
In the NCAA ranks, fireworks and epic hype reels are now part of the fan experience at many collegiate meets. Illinois men’s gymnastics coach Justin Spring has also experimented with other competition formats to enhance the fan experience, including a head-to-heat matchup competition, in which each head-to-head winner earned one point for the team. Some teams have also added names and numbers to uniforms / jerseys.
What do you think? What would you like to see more of at gymnastics events? Tweet us @InsideGym and your thoughts may appear in an upcoming issue of the magazine!