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MyKayla Skinner gets a shot at Olympic medal after Biles withdraws from vault, bars

Former Ute is slotted to compete in Sunday’s individual vault final in the Tokyo Olympics.

(Chang W. Lee | The New York Times) MyKayla Skinner of United States gets a hug from teammate Simone Biles after her performance on the beam during women's artistic gymnastic qualifications at Ariake Gymnastics Center in Tokyo on Sunday, July 25, 2021.

Former University of Utah gymnast MyKayla Skinner will get her shot at an Olympic medal after all.

Skinner, who left the Utes a year early to pursue her Olympic dream, is slotted to compete in Sunday’s individual vault final in the Tokyo Olympics after fellow American Simone Biles withdrew from the vault and uneven bars competitions.

The announcement was made by USA Gymnastics.

The vault finals begin at 2 a.m. MDT.

Biles continues to struggle with the mental issues that forced her to leave the team competition and withdraw from the all-around individual competition.

Skinner finished fourth in the vault in the preliminaries, but wasn’t eligible to be one of the eight competing in the event finals because International gymnastics federation rules limit each country to two participants. Biles and Jade Carey finished first and second in the preliminary round to earn the right to represent the U.S.

“Of course this isn’t how we wanted it to go down, but we are thrilled with the opportunity,” said Skinner’s coach, Lisa Spini, who is with Skinner in Tokyo. “We have been on the emotional roller coaster and have climbed off and ready to give it her best shot.”

Skinner, who decided to train for the Olympics again after going to the 2016 Games as an alternate, has a good chance of medaling.

MyKayla Skinner competes on the vault during the women's U.S. Olympic Gymnastics Trials Sunday, June 27, 2021, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

She won the bronze medal on the vault in the 2014 World Championships and won the NCAA vault title in 2018 for the Utes.

She performs the same vaults Biles does, the Cheng and the Amanar and is known for her quickness.

Utah coach Tom Farden feels bad for Biles, but is ecstatic that Skinner will finally get her chance.

She is one of the few gymnasts to compete in college then return to elite competition. She also overcame tendinitis and a serious case of COVID that hindered her training for more than a month.

Skinner recently announced she won’t use her last year of eligibility with the Utes and instead will focus on some pro opportunities.

“It’s the cherry on top of her career, pending the outcome of the finals,” he said. “I really believe she is strong enough to medal.”

Skinner has the difficulty, she just needs to clean up her execution, Farden said, who watched the vault preliminaries from his home in Salt Lake City.

“She came in a little with bent arms on the Amanar and on the Cheng she could have finished her roundoff a little better,” he said. “I’m watching from here, so it’s different than coaching, but I know her tendencies, too, from coaching her.”

Favorites to medal in the event include Carey, who like Skinner is competing in the Olympics as an individual, South Korea’s Seojeong Yeo and Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade.

Yeo is known for her difficulty, having performed the handspring double full which could be the most difficult vault performed in the final.

According to a statement by USA Gymnastics, Biles will continue to be evaluated daily and no decision has been made whether she will compete in Monday’s floor finals or Tuesday’s balance beam finals.

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