Disappointed MyKayla Skinner is going to the Olympics as an individual and not on the four-woman team? She isn’t
Skinner will represent the U.S. in Tokyo as one of two individual competitors, along with fellow Arizonan Jade Carey.
In the aftermath of Sunday night’s announcement that MyKayla Skinner was headed to Tokyo as one of the six women who comprise the U.S. Women’s Olympic gymnastics team, some pushback emerged.
Not that Skinner didn’t deserve to make the Olympic team. Rather, many were disappointed that she wasn’t named to the four-woman team and was instead one of two gymnasts — fellow Arizonan Jade Carey being the other — who will compete in Tokyo as individuals.
The team, made up of Simone Biles, Suni Lee, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum, are the the gold medal favorites. Anything less than that will be a disappointment. As an individual, Skinner has a much more difficult path to earning a medal.
In qualification, she will need to finish as one of the best 36 gymnasts in the world on the events she wishes to compete for a medal on. It doesn’t end there, though. She will also have to finish in the top two of all the American gymnasts. That means if Skinner hopes to medal on vault, for example — her best event — she’ll have to beat all but one of Biles, Lee, Chiles, McCallum and Carey in qualification.
It is a difficult path to be sure, even on her best events. Needless to say, Skinner’s supporters were disappointed, particularly in light of how close the race for the final team spot was.
Per Team USA head coach Tom Forster, the computer models used by the selection committee actually had Skinner ahead of McCallum for the fourth and final spot on the team, but ultimately the committee elected to choose McCallum.
“Between Grace and MyKayla, there were tenths of a point between them at championships, and this weekend over the two-day period Grace ended up in fourth and so that’s how we decided,” Forster said in a press conference Sunday. “Even though the computer tells us MyKayla on the team would be a couple of tenths higher, we’re so, so fortunate that our athletes are so strong that I don’t think it’s going to come down to tenths of a point in Tokyo. We didn’t feel like it was worth changing the integrity of the process simply for a couple of tenths.”
In a video posted Wednesday on her YouTube channel, Skinner talked about qualifying for the Olympics as an individual, and at this point, she wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I knew there was a chance I could be an individual, but I didn’t know if they’d want to take me because Jade and I are so similar in our gymnastics,” Skinner said. “I didn’t know if they wanted to take two of the same people who could specialize in the same events, but I feel like it was well-deserved and I’m super super grateful that they put me in that position and gave me the opportunity.
“I’ve seen a ton of comments from people who wish I was on the four-man team, but I love Grace and I’m so glad that she made it. I love all the girls that are on the team. I’m just super, super happy for all of them it melts my heart, and I’m happy for myself. I know that I really wanted to be on the four-man team, but taking an individual spot is still awesome. I am so proud of myself that I did the best that I could do and that is really all that matters. This is seriously so cool.”
Waiting to find out if she was going to be an Olympian wasn’t all that enjoyable, though.
Skinner gave a detailed play-by-play of the waiting game she and the other gymnasts went through after the second day of the Olympic Trials, calling it “intense and stressful.”
“I was feeling super sick to my stomach,” she said.
Some of that had to do with her performance Sunday night. After having arguably the best meet of her career on the first day of trials last Friday, Skinner took a step back the second day and finished the competition in fifth place overall.
Nerves were an issue, even for a gymnast as experienced as Skinner.
“The nerves were definitely there and the pressure was crazy,” she said. “I felt like I was struggling a little bit. I didn’t really know if they’d put me on the four-man team or make me an alternate again. I didn’t really know how I was feeling.”
When Skinner’s name wasn’t called for the four-woman team, her heart sunk.
“I was like this is over,” she said. “There is no hope for me at this point.”
Moments later, though, her name was called as an individual competitor, and she almost couldn’t believe it. Honestly, she still can’t.
“I will never forget that moment,” Skinner said. “I’m on the Olympic team! What? Like, what? This doesn’t seem real. All my hard work has paid off. I made it. I did it. It is really exciting for me to be competing and go out there representing Team USA. Keep reaching for your goals and dreams. They come true.”