“It’s unbelievable, really just unbelievable,” were about the only words Utah gymnastics coach Tom Farden could utter Sunday night over the loud cheering in the St. Louis Arena after the U.S. Olympic Gymnastics team was announced.
Not only did MyKayla Skinner, who left school after her junior year to pursue a chance to compete in the Olympics, earn her spot in the upcoming Tokyo Olympic Games, but also future Ute Grace McCallum.
Skinner was selected to compete as an individual while McCallum was named to the team along with Simone Biles, Sunisa Lee and Jordan Chiles.
Kara Eaker, another future Ute, was named an alternate. Jade Carey was selected as the other individual competitor along with Skinner.
“We think we have some of the best recruits, but right now I am just over the moon,” Farden said. “We are very fortunate, this is just unbelievable.”
Biles won the Olympic Trials with a 118.098 followed by Lee (115.832), Chiles (114.631), McCallum (112.564), Skinner (112.264), Kayla DiCello (111.231), Eaker (111.097) and Leanne Wong (110.532).
Biles and Lee were automatic selections based on the results at Trials while the other spots were decided by a selection committee that met following Sunday’s competition.
Utah’s last Olympian was Missy Marlowe, who competed in the 1988 Games. She went on to become a five-time NCAA Champion.
Skinner is one of the few gymnasts who successfully competed in college then qualified for the Olympics. The last to do so was Mohini Bhardwaj, who competed at UCLA and then competed for the 2004 Olympic team that earned the silver medal.
Skinner’s path to the Olympics has been a long one. She was selected as an alternate to the last Olympic team even though many thought she had deserved a spot on the team.
Narrowly missing the right to compete haunted her enough to attempt to make the 2020 Olympics, which were postponed a year because of the pandemic.
She overcame Achilles tendinitis and a serious case of COVID to see her dream realized.
Tom Forster, USA Gymnastics high-performance coordinator, said the committee decided the team based on the results of the Trials.
Farden was thrilled for Skinner.
“She was awesome this weekend,” he said. “She made a big jump from the last time I saw her and for her to earn that individual spot is terrific,” he said.
Skinner was in good position after the first night when she was in fourth place with a 56.598, trailing Biles (60.565), Lee (57.666) and Chiles (57.132). McCallum (56.498) and Eaker (55.565) were fifth and seventh, respectively.
Unfortunately Skinner couldn’t duplicate Friday’s performance on Sunday, performing a tentative bar routine then suffering a couple of deductions on the balance beam.
Skinner also stepped out on her second floor pass.
But Skinner wasn’t the only one feeling the pressure; several gymnasts had mistakes, including Biles, who had a fall off the balance beam. Such a big mistake for Biles was more stunning than if she had earned a perfect score.
Biles was off on her other events as well, evening stepping out on the floor twice.
“It goes to show the pressure that these gymnasts feel at this event,” Farden said. “It was a high-pressure situation.”