‘It was in the back of my head that I can do this.’ MyKayla Skinner is leaving Utah gymnastics team to train for the 2020 Olympics — but leaving the door ajar for a possible return.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) MyKayla Skinner competes on the balance beam for Utah, in the PAC-12 Gymnastics Championships at the Maverik Center, Saturday, March 23, 2019.

Serving as an alternate to the 2016 Olympic team never satisfied MyKayla Skinner’s dreams of competing in the Olympics. The swag wasn’t enough. She wanted the experience.

That desire for more is why Skinner has decided to explore the possibility of earning a spot on the 2020 USA Gymnastics team by participating in the National Team Camp in June. If it looks like she has a good chance of competing in the Olympics, Skinner won’t return to the Utes for her senior year. If things don’t work out, she will be back in a Utah leotard for the 2020 season.

Skinner said she has known for a while that she wanted to go for the Olympics again, but didn’t want to make an announcement that would be a distraction for her teammates. The chance of actually competing in the Olympics, not just watching, was too tempting for her, she said.

“When you work for this your whole entire life and don’t accomplish that goal, it was in the back of my head that I can do this,” she said. “I can make it this time and try my best.”

The key meets to determine Skinner’s future will be the American Classic June 20-21 and the GK U.S. Classic on July 20 in Louisville, Ky.

The last chance for gymnasts to qualify will be at the 2019 U.S. Gymnastics Championships Aug. 8-11 in Kansas City, Mo.


• Two-time NCAA all-around runner-up

• 2017 NCAA floor champion

*2018 NCAA vault champion

• Owns school record 26 All-America awards

• 111 career victories ranks third in school history

• Named Pac-12 Gymnast of the Week a league record to 16 times

• Her seven Pac-12 wins is tied for second in conference history

• Set NCAA record by hitting 161 routines in a row

• Fell only once in her college career, on April 6, during an uneven bars routine at regionals

Skinner has the support of Utah coach Tom Farden, who knew she might make a run for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo when he recruited her.

“She is one of those rare athletes who only comes along once in a while,” he said. “She is a game changer and her consistency is remarkable. She upped everybody’s level in the NCAA and drew a lot of attention to what you can do in NCAA gymnastics.”

Farden will hold a scholarship for Skinner until August. The 22-year-old Skinner, who is already ‘old,’ by gymnastics standards didn’t rule out the possibility of returning for her senior year following the Olympics.

“I feel like my body has held up well,” she said. “I want to focus on the Olympics now and if everything feels pretty good do one more year.”

Only one other Utah gymnast has followed a similar path. Daria Bijak competed for Germany in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, then returned to the Utes for her junior and senior years.

Regardless of whether she returns, Skinner has earned a place among Utah’s greatest gymnasts of all time.

She won the NCAA title on the floor in 2017 and the vault in 2018 and finished as the runner-up in the all-around in both 2017 and 2018. At the recent 2019 NCAA championships, she placed in the top seven overall on vault, bars, floor and all-around.

She has hit 166 out of 167 routines in her career, including a streak of 161 in a row, which set an NCAA record.

In addition, she has won eight NCAA regional and seven Pac-12 individual titles and 111 individual victories to rank third in school history.

Skinner said regardless of what happens in her athletic endeavors, she will complete her degree in communications. A two-time Pac-12 All-Academic selection, Skinner is enrolled in classes for the 2019 summer and fall semesters.

“Being a part of this team has meant the world to me,” she said. “I’ve accomplished more in three years than I ever thought I was going to do. I got to be a part of the Utah legacy and that is incredible. I wouldn’t have wanted to go anywhere else.”

Skinner, from Gilbert, Ariz., will train at her club gym Desert Lights. She said her coaches have been good about keeping her reps reasonable to preserve her health. She plans to “ease into things,” by working the floor and vault first, then being ready for the all-around by November when the World Championships are held.

“I know she has the talent,” Farden said. “Beyond that it will be if the start values are going to be enough and the technicalities.”

Skinner will worry about those details soon enough. For now, she is enjoying the decision.

“It gives me the shakes,” she said. “It doesn’t seem real.”

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