9:00 p.m.: One of the nicest things about gymnastics, I’ve always thought, is that there’s more than one way to be successful. Routines vary in style and skill selection, gymnasts vary in age and height and proclivity, and the sport and the code of points, especially in recent years, allows them to choose the things that work for them. Biles and Mustafina have completely different styles and training methods, yet both are lions of the sport, and every gymnast who chooses to compete at the elite level is a legend in her own time. The diversity, which was evident tonight, will be on display tomorrow, and it promises to be a memorable show.
8:55 p.m.: Mustafina and Hatakeda are the last ones in the gym, staying after everyone else has had their media moment. Mustafina does a dance through on floor: quad turn, great, double turn with leg at head, also great, and those very Ksenia Afanasyeva-like hand gestures in the corner before her third pass. (Yes, part of her music is a sleekly spun out cut of Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor.” Now she just needs to add in the tumbling and she’ll be good.
8:34 p.m.: Charpy bars: Stalder Shaposh half, toe blind to pike Jaeger. Ricna to Pak. Toe Shaposh half to high. Toe full to full twisting double tuck, slightly low landing, step forward.
Kovacs bars: Stalder full to Maloney. Stalder uprise to timer for Ricna, I’d say. Hatakeda on bars: Maloney and inbar blind to pike Jaeger.
8:28 p.m.: Nice Arabian double front on floor from Seitz! Over on beam, Mustafina is working. But it’s not easy, nor does she make it look so right now. Gymnastics is hard, guys.
8:23 p.m.: Biles on floor is working a full twisting double layout, the Biles, and full ins. At the moment, however, another conference with Landi at the edge of the floor before her dance through.
8:18 p.m.: Bui, beam: a roundoff, layout to two feet beam mount. Bhs, layout. Switch to switch half. Side aerial. Gainer layout off the end. Such clean work — far cleaner than earlier in her career, frankly. Not that she was ever messy in her skills, but there’s just kind of a gloss to her moves and choreo, a polish, a quality, that only seems to come with maturity. Thirty is the new 20 in women’s gymnastics.
For so many years, Mustafina’s flight series on beam was either questionable or, in the case of one memorable Olympic final, non-existent. But tonight she gets up and the first thing she does is a bhs, layout, perfect, like she’s been doing it all her life.
8:13 p.m.: Hitomi Hatakeda, floor: Sits wolf turn 2/1 and goes on like nothing happened. As one does. Full in tuck, low landing. 2.5 to punch front. Double pike?
Postscript: Bui just nailed a bhs, layout combo on beam.
Over on vault, Kovacs shows a nice DTY.
8:11 p.m.: Second full set for Biles on beam, with bhs, bhs to full in tuck dismount. One reason the Americans have been so successful for the past twenty years is that they are so prepared for every competition. Of everyone here, Biles is the only one who looks like she could get up at 3 a.m. and knock out her routines if she had to.
8:08 p.m.: Bui doesn’t like tumbling backwards on beam, I think, which explains why she trains bhs, jump into the air when in competition she’ll do a bhs, layout. She does do a killer 540 degree jump toward the end of the beam, however, which is a whole lot harder than she makes it look.
8:05 p.m.: Biles beam: Wolf turn 3/1. Bhs, layout, layout, wonderful. Switch to switch half to back pike, also extremely assured. Side aerial. Split jump half. Front aerial. Timer dismount. There are about 15 people around the beam watching her.
Yes, everyone thinks wolf turns should go away, but Biles’s is quite tolerable, especially when you consider that it’s a triple and you’ve spent the afternoon watching people fall on doubles.
On about her fourth try, Mustafina manages to do her Pak to toe Shaposh half. Victory!
8:00 p.m.: Mustafina is struggling with getting her feet on the bar and then shooting them up the way she’s going to have to after her Pak salto on bars if she wants to connect it to the toe Shaposh half back up to high.
7:56 p.m.: Second half of a bar routine for Biles is just about maintenance — making sure she sticks her full twisting double tuck, and that the toe Shaposh transition is under control. It’s all fine.
Zsofia Kovacs floor: The Piano Guys’s “Michael Meets Mozart.” Runs through her first pass, full in second pass.
Hatakeda beam: Lovely graceful movements. Bhs, layout series and a double pike dismount.
7:52 p.m.: Charpy on vault: Very clean FTYs. Over on floor, Hungary’s Zsofia Kovacs is doing some big tumbling — double layout, and also a double twisting double tuck. We haven’t heard much from her lately, but Kovacs had a great 2017, complete with the European all-around silver medal.
Biles’s second full routine on bars goes very well indeed. Full twisting double tuck dismount. In the grand tradition of Russians in training, Mustafina gets up, does a Maloney and jumps off the bars.
7:46 p.m.: Ana Padurariu, floor: Double pike. 2.5 to punch front, stuck. The tumbling is clean, but it’s the dance and the music that makes this routine so much fun.
Over on bars, Laurent Landi is watching Elisabeth Seitz with great interest as she does her routine. He does every element with her, inclining his head as he watches. Biles gets up and does a clean first half on bars, then misses her toe shoot after her Pak salto, kips off and misses the toe Shaposh half. Landi gives her a lecture, complete with big sweeping arm movements.
7:43 p.m.: Mustafina warming up on vault: Yurchenko with no flip and a series of Yurchenko layouts, each one higher than the last. Over on bars, Kim Bui looks just fantastic, perhaps the best she has on bars in her entire career, which has been rather successful on that event. She had the highest score at the American Cup two weeks ago on bars, of course.
7:39 p.m.: Lorette Charpy, floor: First pass is running double front tuck. Dances through the rest. A very pretty, classical piece, the same as she used in Doha last fall, I believe.
7:31 p.m.: Biles and Mustafina aren’t the only ones here, of course. Canadian star Ana Padurariu and Japan’s Hitomi Hatakeda are presently with them on vault (monster timers from Biles, followed by a casual DTY, while Hatakeda is training a Yurchenko 1.5.) Over on bars, meanwhile, Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui are getting into the swing of things (I know, I know.)
7:26 p.m.: Love them or hate them, cast handstands are a healthy part of any gymnast’s workout. Supervised closely by coach Laurent Landi, Biles gets hers out of the way early. Mustafina, meanwhile, sits on the floor having a conference with coach Pavel Pavlov. Her own cast handstands will come later, no doubt.
7:17 p.m.: It is extremely rare that a competition ends and the first thing you feel is a happy flutter of anticipation. Then again, it’s also extremely rare that the queens of gymnastics, Simone Biles and Aliya Mustafina, are in the same building at the same time. So. Podium training for the women’s all-around final at the Stuttgart World Cup begins just as the women’s team final at the DTB Pokal ends, and a healthy number of spectators have stayed to watch. “OHMIGOD IT’S SIMONE BILES!” shrieks one little girl in the upper deck when she spots Biles, in a white turtleneck top and black leggings, casually stretching on the floor. Exactly.