SALT LAKE CITY — On an ordinary day, a phone call from Jonas Harmer would have been welcome news to MyKayla Skinner. After all, what newlywed doesn’t want to hear from their spouse?
So when Skinner saw she was getting a call from Harmer on Monday, while on her way to yet another day of training at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Arizona, it was nothing if not a pleasant surprise.
Then came the words: “Did you hear it is postponed?”
It, in this case, was the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
For nearly a year, Skinner had been training in hopes of competing in the Olympics. She had forestalled her senior season at the University of Utah and put her life on hold in a significant way for the chance of a lifetime.
When Harmer first said the words, that the Tokyo Games had been postponed, she honestly didn’t believe him.
“I was like, ‘Are you sure that is true?’” she said. “‘I don’t think they’ve come out with anything.’”
Then, like clockwork, came the text messages. First one. Then another. Then another. Before long, the messages added up to a “gazillion texts.”
“I realized then that it was really happening,” Skinner said.
On Tuesday it became official: The Tokyo Olympics are postponed until 2021. The news hit Skinner like a ton of bricks and the emotions, well, they flew all over the place.
“It was so shocking,” she said.
And in the very next breath, there was understanding.
“I get it for the safety of everybody and for people who haven’t been able to work out,” she said. “It is understandable.”
“I think everyone kind of knew that it was probably going to happen, even though I was trying to tell myself that it wasn’t going to,” Skinner said. “I didn’t really want that to happen.”
There was also hurt and disappointment.
“It sucks working so hard for something and then all of a sudden it is postponed,” she said. “Does this really have to happen? It is just crazy.”
All of it was to be expected. Since she was named an alternate on the 2016 U.S. Women’s Gymnastics team that went to Rio de Janeiro, Skinner has held the dream of Tokyo in the back of her mind. Considering her age — at 23 she is “not old yet, but in the gymnastics world I am getting there,” she said — the Tokyo Games were supposed to be her last hurrah.
Her dreams are now up in the air.
“I don’t know. It has been tough,” she said. “I don’t even know what to think.”
So what is next for Skinner? That is the question her fans are asking. Will she continue training and try to qualify for the Olympics next year? Will she return to college gymnastics? When would that be?
She’ll be the first to tell you that at this point, a day removed from the initial news, she doesn’t have the answers. Not really. Though she does have an idea.
Skinner expects to continue training for the Olympics, whenever they might be. That dream, as of right now, is not dead.
“I’m still training,” she said. “I’ve worked so hard already, so I don’t really want to just throw it down the drain. I think for right now that is the smartest decision.”
The return to elite gymnastics has been incredibly difficult, though, more so than even she expected, which will play into any decision going forward.
“Elite is just so hard,” she said. “I had forgotten just how hard it was, Just having to be positive and dedicated every single day. There have been so many times where I’ve thought, ‘I could be in college right now having my senior year and it could be so easy.’ The hardest part is being so motivated and having that drive to push yourself every day. And that will only get harder now with the Olympics postponed.”
As for a return to college gymnastics, Skinner has never stopped thinking about it.
“It is on my mind a lot and is especially now that the Olympics have been pushed back,” she said. “Do I want to keep training? Do I want to go to college? If I do make the run for the Olympics, there is always a chance. I haven’t fully given up on (Utah) yet.”
Ultimately, nothing is remotely set in stone for Skinner at this point. With a single phone call, her life was upended, as understandable as it was. And so, like many prospective Olympians around the world, what’s next for the University of Utah star is yet to be determined.
“I’m just trying to process it all and just really see what I want to do,” Skinner said. “We’ll see what happens here in the next couple of months. Right now, I’m just trying to take it one day at a time.”