US gymnast MyKayla Skinner: Selection process for Tokyo Olympic team fairer than it was in 2016

MyKayla Skinner recently said that she believed she had a fairer chance of entering the Olympics this time that in 2016, but that didn’t alleviate any stress going into the final day of the U.S. Gymnastic Trials.

After being an Olympic alternate for the 2016 Rio Games and 2019 World Championships, Skinner’s history of disappointment kept her on edge while the selection committee met following her fifth-place all-around finish at trials Sunday in St. Louis.

“Things are a lot fairer than when Martha (Karolyi) was here,” Skinner said Monday. “It’s kind of hard to say that because for the 2019 Worlds, I got fourth all-around and they still put me alternate. So last night waiting back in the room, I was like it could go either way.”

Instead of two automatic qualifiers after trials, Skinner would have preferred that the top four all-arounders were assured of making the U.S. team, which ultimately is what happened. That left one individual berth to be decided and no guarantee that it would go to Skinner even though she was just .300 behind fourth-place Grace McCallum.

“It was a little bit of a guessing game,” Skinner said. “After they called that fourth name, I was like ‘oh my gosh am I going to be the alternate again’. I was super stressed. Then they called me for the individual spot, and I was super shocked. Obviously, I would have loved to be on that four-man team, but either way is super cool and I finally get to be an Olympian, which is awesome. I get to check that mark off the list.”

Skinner of Gilbert/Desert Lights and Jade Carey of Phoenix/Arizona Sunrays are both going to the Tokyo Olympics, July 23-Aug. 8, as individual qualifiers with Carey earning her berth in February 2020 through the Apparatus World Cup Series.

Both can compete in all four events if they choose or concentrate on their specialties, vaulting and floor exercise, in pursuit of a medal.

Skinner, 24, returned to international elite gymnastics after three years of college at Utah for a second shot at fulfilling her Olympic dream. During the one-year Olympic postponement, her training was slowed by an overuse injury, COVID-19 and pneumonia, making her selection more improbable.

But she made enough progress from the U.S. Classic in May (10th all-around) to the U.S. Championships (ninth) in early June to trials (fifth) to warrant more than a career achievement award like she received for sportsmanship at nationals.

“I went up right away to Lisa (Spini) and Bruce (McGehee) and said thanks so much for putting your life on hold to allow McKayla to pursue this dream of hers,” said Tom Forster, who replaced Karolyi as USA Gymnastics women’s high-performance director. “She’s an amazing inspiration that also has just put in the work.

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