SALT LAKE CITY — It has been the question on the minds of Utah gymnastics fans, not to mention the team’s coaches and, quite frankly, her fellow Red Rocks, since the moment she first set foot on the campus of the University of Utah — will MyKayla Skinner leave school early to make a run at the 2020 Summer Olympic Games?
It has always been a fitting question.
Skinner was, after all, an alternate on the 2016 USA gymnastics team, a group of athletes considered by many to be the greatest gymnastics team in history.
The Final Five medaled on every event, which included a dominant gold medal win over Russia in the team final.
They were the first team since the 1992 Unified Team, which included 12 of 15 former Soviet republics, to pull off said feat.
Although she did not compete in the 2016 Olympics, Skinner finished fourth in the all-around during the Olympic trials, a fact which put her on the level, if not above that, of Madison Kocian and Gabby Douglas.
Her further success while at the U., which includes but is not limited to two NCAA individual championships (on floor and vault), 15 Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week awards and 92 career victories, only acts as further evidence of just how elite a gymnast Skinner is.
“She is a world-class athlete,” Utah co-head coach Tom Farden said.
Through her freshman and sophomore seasons at Utah, the question of her Olympic future was always more theoretical than anything else.
Skinner was a Red Rock and 2020 was a distant date in the future.
That has all changed this year.
In order to properly train for any attempted Olympic berth, Skinner must forgo her senior season.
She is currently a junior, and any Olympic training would start nearly the moment the current collegiate gymnastics season ends.
A decision needs to be made before then, not only for Skinner’s benefit, but for that of her current team, what with recruiting demands and roster spots in flux.
Needless to say, Skinner’s gymnastics future is very much on her mind.
“It is there,” she said. “It is in the back of my head and I have really been thinking about it. I was kind of talking to Tom about it yesterday, just to give him my thoughts. They (Farden and fellow co-head coach Megan Marsden) kind of need to know what my plans are in preparation for next year.”
At the moment, those plans are a heavy lean toward an Olympic future.
“I mean it is kind of 70 or 80 percent,” Skinner said. “That is where I am at right now.”
Skinner leaving Utah would carry with it a wild mix of emotions for Utah fans, but the All-American attempted to put those fans at ease, noting that a return to the U. following the 2020 Olympic Games is very much in the cards.
“I mean, there is always that option (becoming a professional), but as of right now I am thinking about coming back to finish my senior year,” Skinner said.
Most likely that would mean she would return to Utah the fall of 2020 and compete during the 2020-21 season; that is, if she decides to leave at all.
“I haven’t decided yet,” Skinner said. “This is all if I decide to go.”
In the meantime, she is recovering from a build-up of fluid in her ankle.
“She has some fluid in her ankle, just from pounding,” Farden said. “It started at the Oregon State meet and it is just some fluid. That is what doctors have told us.”
After sitting out on floor exercise against Arizona, the expectation is that she will do so again this weekend against Cal.
“They said I can start tumbling this week to see how it feels," Skinner said. "I don’t really know as of right now if I can get back in the all-around. If I can I will, but they (Farden and Marsden) gotta do what they gotta do. I’d rather be healthy and strong at the end (of the year) and not be kind of screwed up later. As of right now though, everything is going good. I feel good.”
Red Rocks on the air
No. 4 Utah (197.205) vs. No. 14 Cal (195.890)
Saturday, 1 p.m. MST
Huntsman Center, Salt Lake City
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: ESPN 700 AM