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Germany's Tratz Enjoys Transition to College Life at UCLA
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After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States. Pictured: The German team celebrates after Tratz, the final performer, hit her routine on uneven bars at the 2016 Rio Test Event in Rio de Janeiro, where Germany placed second as a team to clinch qualification to the 2016 Olympic Games later that summer.

After winning vault in her debut for UCLA last week, 2016 German Olympic team alternate Pauline Tratz told IG she is enjoying the process of adapting to collegiate gymnastics and university life in the United States.


Tratz poses at UCLA's Pauley Pavilion after winning vault in her NCAA debut.

"I was excited to make the transition," said Tratz, who arrived on the Los Angeles campus directly from this summer's University Games in Taipei, where she placed 13th all-around and fifth on floor exercise. "It's really interesting to see how differently the gymnasts work, because it's really all about execution and not about the difficulty."

Tratz, who will turn 19 on June 14, said she is also savoring the challenge of adjusting her routines to meet NCAA requirements.

"For sure it was hard at the beginning because it was different," she said. "But I really enjoy choosing the best skills from my elite routines and working on them really hard, and trying to do them perfectly."

Tratz was a member of Germany's fourth-place team at the 2014 European Junior Championships in Sofia and its 12th-place team at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow. She finished 18th all-around at the 2015 Europeans in Montpellier. At the 2016 Olympic test event in Rio, Tratz helped Germany finish second in the team competition behind Brazil, clinching a team berth to the 2016 Rio Games.

In recent domestic competitions, Tratz placed seventh all-around, second on vault and third on floor exercise at the 2015 German Championships; 10th all-around, first on vault and second on floor exercise at the 2016 German Championships; and first on vault at the 2017 German Championships.

Tratz trained at TSV Rintheim in Karlsruhe under coach Tatjana Bachmayer and competed in the German Bundesliga for TG Karlsruhe-Söllingen. Starting in January 2017, she was also coached by American Chris Lakeman. Lakeman, a former Penn State gymnast who won the 2001 NCAA still rings title, is the new head coach of TG Karlsruhe.


Tratz on floor at the 2015 World Championships in Glasgow

Tratz, who competed on vault and floor exercise in her collegiate debut against Ohio State University last Saturday, said she hopes to return to all-around competition next year.

"At the moment I have problems with my right shoulder so I can't train bars, but I'm working on beam," she said. "It's taken me a little time because I had to change from my elite routine to a college routine, so I just need to get a little more confident. I'm planning to do beam, and hopefully next season, bars, when my shoulder gets better."

Tratz said she is keeping her academic options open. This quarter her classes include English Composition, Design and Media Arts, and Introduction to Screenwriting.

"First I just want to get experience in different areas," she said. "I'm interested in film and television, but I don't know what I want to do exactly. I want to play around and see what classes I like, and what I want to do in my future."

While Tratz said she is inspired by the long careers of German teammates including Elisabeth Seitz and Kim Bui, both of whom are thriving in their 20s, she has her own agenda that may or may not include a return to international competition.

"I see that they still have fun and love competing, and I also still love competing," she told IG. "But I want to have a change and experience myself in a different way. So I thought starting college gymnastics would be the perfect way. I want to focus on this season and help my team win the national championship. After the season, I will think about elite again."

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