Utah gymnast MyKayla Skinner is caught in Olympics limbo, along with everybody else prepping for the Tokyo Games
Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune Utah's MyKayla Skinner scored a 9.975 on the vault as No. 3 University of Utah gymnastics team meets BYU gymnastics at the Marriot Center, Jan. 10, 2019.
By Lya Wodraska | Special to The Tribune
| March 20, 2020, 5:38 p.m.
| Updated: March 21, 2020, 12:26 a.m.
As an athlete, MyKayla Skinner has it ingrained in her to focus only on the things that she can control. So the Olympic hopeful continues to go to her Arizona gym and trains five hours a day for an Olympic Games that might not happen.
That idea is so hurtful, Skinner has a hard time comprehending what it could mean. It’s easier for her to focus on more immediate things like the flips, twists and other aerial tricks she is mastering.
“This is all kind of weird for me,” Skinner said this week. “I feel like everything is going good for me, but camp is cancelled and we don’t know if the meet in Utah is going to happen or anything else.”
The meet Skinner speaks of is the Pan American Championships, scheduled for May 7-10 at Utah Valley University. It was supposed to be the last qualifying event for the Olympics for the Americas.
USA Gymnastics has put a moratorium on sanctioned meets through May 10 and currently has the Pan Am Games listed as To Be Determined.
It is conceivable the event could be pushed back some and not cancelled altogether.
However, Skinner is more worried about the bigger picture, how the virus sanctions could affect her dream of competing in the Olympics.
After being passed over for the 2016 Olympic Games and serving only as an alternate, Skinner made the decision to delay her senior year at Utah with the hopes of competing in 2020.
Skinner’s plan remains to hopefully compete in the Olympics then return to Utah for her senior year and finish her degree in Communications. She and her husband, Jonas Harmer, plan to move back to Utah and buy a house in Lehi so he can finish his degree at BYU.
Now the 23-year-old might have her dream taken from her again.
“If they postpone them for a whole year or a year and a half, that seems like forever away,” Skinner said. “I look at it that it would be nice to work on stuff that I might not have gotten in but will my body last that long at the elite level? Everything seems crazy.”
Skinner laughs at the thought she could be competing in college as a 25-year-old if the Olympics are delayed, but says as of now her body feels strong.
Skinner has had a remarkably injury-free year, which has helped her maintain longevity in a sport known for brief careers.
“I’m obviously older so I am only training five hours a week, then working with a trainer twice a week and physical therapy twice a week so it adds up,” she said. “I have Wednesday and Sunday off so my body is holding up and staying intact.”
Lisa Spini, Skinner’s coach and founder of Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, Ariz., has closed their gym but Skinner is still training there.
Skinner is working on some uneven bar upgrades but her other events are strong.
KEY DATES FOR OLYMPICS GYMNASTICS
May 7-10 • Pan American Championships, Utah Valley
June 4-7 • U.S. Championships, Fort Worth, Texas
June 25-28, • U.S. Olympic Team Trials, St. Louis, Missouri
July 24-Aug. 9 • 2020 Olympic Games, Tokyo, Japan
On March 9, Skinner took second in the all-around and won vault, bars and floor to help the U.S. win gold in the Gymnix International Cup in Montreal.
“She is doing amazingly well,” Spini said. “It is still such a short time back for her competing at the elite level. People don’t know how different it is from the NCAA, that kept her in shape and physical condition good, but it is completely different at this level.”
Although her focus is on her own goals, Skinner has kept tabs on the Utes and said she was amazed at how well they did. Utah went undefeated and won the Pac-12 regular season title before the NCAA halted competition.
“I didn’t know how we were going to do but to be in the top three or four was pretty awesome,” she said. “I kept up the highlights and everything and my mom was still watching too so we were all still supporting them.”
Now there is nothing left to focus on but herself.
“Everything is going good, but it’s hard,” she said.