Latter-day Saint and former University of Utah gymnast MyKayla Skinner is one step closer to the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.
Last weekend, the gymnast was one of 29 athletes who competed in the U.S. Gymnastics Championships in Fort Worth, Texas. Deseret News reported the outcome of the event, including Skinner’s ninth place finish which will take her to the Olympic Trials in just a few short weeks from June 24–27 in St. Louis, Missouri.
According to Deseret News, those who finish in the top two in the Olympic Trials will have a guaranteed place in Team USA, which consists of four athletes. The other two athletes on the team are chosen by a committee.
In a 2019 article, The Washington Post explained that Team USA shrank from five competitors to four in a decision made by the sport’s international governing body in 2015. The idea was to ensure athletes would be proficient at all events—in the case of women’s gymnastics, this includes vault, beam, floor, and balance beam—rather than having a specialist on one apparatus.
This decision was made in hopes that it would also help smaller countries by narrowing the competitive gap between them and larger nations. Two individual spots were also created per country for gymnasts to compete in individual events, but they would not compete on the four-person team.
One of those individual spots on Team USA is currently claimed by gymnast Jade Carey. And while the competition is fierce—a future University of Utah gymnast placed in seventh over the weekend—Skinner still has a chance of making the Olympic team.
“There is a case to be made for Skinner. . . . She was solid on floor, but has the ability to do much better, her vault is elite, and her improvement on bars has given her a fighting chance,” Deseret News writer Trent Wood explained.
Skinner especially excelled at the vault, scoring 15.000 on her first day and 29.900 for her two-day score. This put her in second place on the event behind Simone Biles, who won the U.S. Gymnastics Championships last weekend and is now a seven-time U.S. all around champion.
Watch Skinner’s vault below.
This isn’t the first time Skinner has competed for a spot on Team USA for the Olympics. In 2016, she went to Rio de Janeiro as one of three alternates on the Olympic team, but she never felt like she truly accomplished her goal of competing in the Olympics. And yet despite the ups and downs of her career, she told LDS Living that she has always believed her work in gymnastics has been for a higher purpose.
“I’ve kind of always wanted to go on a mission, but obviously with the whole gymnastics thing it never really played out for me,” she says. “But in my patriarchal blessing it talks about how this is my mission to the youth. My whole patriarchal blessing talks about gymnastics, which is really, really cool.”
Skinner has also expressed her gratitude for teammates like Biles, who know Skinner’s standards and have supported her in keeping them. And while some athletes might be daunted by the task at hand, Skinner previously told LDS Living that not having achieved her goal yet has only made her more determined to do so.
“If I just got to be up on that podium with my hand on my heart, [that] would be so unreal. . . . I just have worked so hard, and to know that the hard work finally paid off would be the best feeling in the world,” she said.
Read more about Skinner's faith and her determination to make Team USA in the LDS Living story, Going for the goal: Why MyKayla Skinner is giving the Olympics one more shot.