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LDS teen, future U. gymnast prepares for Rio Olympic trials

After winning medals at two international gymnastic meets in March, 19-year-old Mormon gymnast Mykayla Skinner has her eye on the 2016 Olympics in Brazil.

Skinner, of Gilbert, Arizona, represented the United States in the Glasgow World Cup in Scotland on March 11-12, winning the gold medal all-around with a score of 56.99. No individual event medals were awarded, and Skinner was the top scorer in vault and finished second in both uneven bars and floor exercise.

There wasn’t much time to celebrate. Skinner flew directly to Italy to prepare for the City of Jesolo Trophy one week later. Gymnasts from seven countries competed in this annual meet, including U.S. teammates and 2012 Olympic champions Gabby Douglas and Ali Raisman. Skinner won a gold medal in the vault and took fifth place all-around, ahead of Raisman. Douglas won first place all-around.

“We were very happy with MyKayla's performances, winning the World Cup in Glasgow and the vault in Jesolo,” said her coach Lisa Spini. “The stamina required to do both of those meets successfully, back to back, is the kind of staying power she will need to get through the competitions leading up to Rio and the Olympics.”

Skinner was on the 2014 and 2015 World Championship teams and also won the bronze medal for vault in the 2014 World Championship. She has consistently been one of the best vault performers in the world, according to her coaches, and finished second in the last two national championships behind Simone Biles, who is the current world all-around champion. Skinner was the first female gymnast to execute the double double layout in a floor exercise, debuting it at the Fiesta Bowl Invitational Gymnastics Meet in 2013.

Skinner was disappointed when the 2012 Olympic roster did not have her name on it. But she has used the time to hone her skills, gain experience and become even better.

“I’m way more prepared than I was four years ago and have a lot more experience,” said Skinner, who graduated from high school in 2015 and has committed to attend the University of Utah after the Olympics. “Going to the Olympics would be a dream come true.”

Skinner will continue to train at Desert Lights Gymnastics near her home in Arizona. She also trains one week each month with the Senior National Team and U.S. team coordinator Martha Karolyi in Houston.

In June, Skinner is scheduled to compete in the Secret U.S. Classic in Hartford, Connecticut, and the P&G Gymnastics Championships in St. Louis. The Olympic trials will follow in San Jose, California, on July 8-10.

Skinner is scheduled to compete in the USA Gymnastics Championships in June, followed by the Olympic trials in July. The gymnasts chosen to represent the U.S. in the 2016 Olympics will then head to Rio in August.

“It will be a very intense five months, with making the Olympic team as our chief goal,” said Spini. “For MyKayla, that will involve incorporating several upgrades into her routines and continuing to perfect her form and technique.”

Skinner spends more than 30 hours each week in the gym, but she does not train on Sundays. She believes this has helped her become stronger both physically and spiritually. A member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Skinner attends the Bella Vista Ward in Gilbert with her family.

Skinner was recently featured in advertisements for Under Armour.

Editor's note: Evelyn Hendrix is a friend of the Skinner family.

Evelyn Hendrix lives in Arizona where she is never forced to scrape ice from her windshield. She often writes about family, education, health and quirky people who simply make life better.