MyKayla Skinner’s quest for Olympic glory

As a child, MyKayla Skinner As a child had a love-hate relationship with gymnastics.
Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 9:06 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Gymnast MyKayla Skinner has had a rollercoaster run in her quest for Olympic glory. As a child, she had a love-hate relationship with gymnastics, even quitting the sport at one point because, at that moment, she hated it.

“When I started the elite program is when I kind of fell in love with it again; it was like, I want to do this, and this is what it takes to go to the Olympics,” MyKayla says. She started training from a young age at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, where she earned 11 medals at the U.S. National Championships.

In 2016, MyKayla earned a spot at the National Championships, the U.S. Olympic trials. Unfortunately, she didn’t get far that year. “It was really, really hard, especially when I placed fourth in Olympic trials, and didn’t get to make that five-man team and then put me as the first alternate. You just have to, like, sit there and maybe see if I’m going to make it or not,” MyKayla says.

She didn’t make it that year and didn’t compete. The upset of it all was enough for her to call it a career.

Done with the Olympics,’ so she thought

She started college and went on with her life. All the while, she was missing the world of competition. Eventually, she re-ignited that Olympic flame inside of her. She decided to train again for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, which the pandemic and Covid-19 delayed.

“I got COVID. I got Pneumonia. I was out for like a month, and I was super sick. I did go to the hospital for Pneumonia. I was feeling really sick again just after coming back from COVID-19 and was out for another 10 days after being out for three weeks. I’d never been out of the gym for that long,” MyKayla says.

She got better, pushed through, and trained hard.

“I kind of thought at this point my Olympic dreams were over, you know. I don’t know how I’m going to come back from this. My endurance was so bad. I went to the gym every day work so hard. I was like, I can’t give up,” MyKayla says. After all of the setbacks, the sickness, the training, it was time for MyKayla to find out if she had made Team USA. “We were waiting in that room, and they come walking out, and they started announcing the team. I’m alternate again.”

She and Jade Carey, also an Arizona native, were named Individual Event Specialists, gymnasts who do not participate in all four events, only one. “I was like, I still get to the Olympics; I get to compete for myself now like it’s not part of the team, which is what I was wanted to do. [But] it was something,” MyKayla says.

Finally, the delayed 2020 games began in the summer of 2021 with no crowds, families, or fanfare—a challenge for any athlete. MyKayla did not make it past the qualifying round for the vault. “Vault is my thing. I put a lot of pressure on myself, and I just didn’t do the best vaults that I could have done. It was super devastating. All the emotions, I was like, this is it for me. I knew I was retiring after the Olympics. I thought,” MyKayla said with a hit of laughter.

MyKayla, accepting that her Olympic dream was becoming more like a nightmare, reminded herself of how far she’d come and was grateful, although she was being sent home. “My coach came to me and said do you want to fly home early? And I said sure, but I want to stay and watch the team compete,” she said.

After that, nothing went as predicted.

MyKayla watched her team compete from the stands; the star of the team had a mishap. “Simone goes up, gets the Twisties, and Jade and I were just like, did that just happen? No way! The Twisties are a mental block that causes gymnasts to lose sense of their bodies mid-air.

Now, Simone Biles, the golden gymnast, could not compete. That mishap led to a text message from MyKayla’s coach that changed everything: ‘They’re changing your flights, you’re staying.’

“I had to totally get back into my mental state and get focused again. It just [seemed] like the most unrealistic twist that one can go through,” MyKayla says. “It was hard to wrap my head that I was gonna go in, but I was ready. I was like, I can do this.”

MyKayla did just that, vaulting her way to the medal stand.

“It was such a cool experience. And I’m so grateful that I got to have that experience, and I feel bad for Simone. But, for her to be a good teammate and to cheer me on, she knew that I deserved it, too. After everything you’ve been through, she was like you deserve to be here.”

MyKayla won an Olympic Silver. “I wanted that medal, but it’s more than just the medal. It’s the blood, sweat, and tears and everything that went into it. And to be able to accomplish something that I’ve dreamed of ever since I was that little girl like I made it, I just never gave up.”

MyKayla’s got big plans on the horizon.

This past summer, she returned to Gilbert, Arizona, to attend the lavish baby shower her sister hosted for family and friends. “I’ve been wanting to be a mom since I was like 20 years old. So I was waiting for this new chapter to start after retirement,” MyKayla says.

Is her Olympic career over?

“For a while, I was like, you know, never say never there could be a chance, but then I knew I wanted kids. And then, you know, with Chellsie Memmel, she came back this last round and did it after having two kids.

So, I’m like, never say never,” MyKayla says.

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