The journey to the Olympic Games has been a long and winding one for gymnast MyKayla Skinner, who didn’t earn a spot on Team USA for the 2012 London Games and only made it as an alternate for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. And even though she went to Tokyo this year as a full-fledged Olympian, her journey was cut short when she failed to qualify for the women’s individual all-round or vault events.
At least, it seemed like her journey was at an end.
But that was before the Olympic future of the woman many consider to be the greatest gymnast of all time came into question. With Simone Biles assessing her ability to compete in each event on a day-by-day basis since suffering from the "twisties," the Utah native could be on the cusp of an amazing Olympic comeback story.
“Heartbroken is an understatement,” Skinner wrote on Instagram Tuesday, and at the time, it was easy to understand why.
After the Rio Games, the 24-year-old left elite gymnastics, opting instead to embark on an impressive collegiate gymnastics career that saw her become a 26-time All-American at the University of Utah. Then, in 2019, she returned to elite competitions so she could make a run for the Tokyo Games, which were then set for 2020. The pandemic put the Olympics on hold until this year, but before long, another tremendous challenge came her way.
In late 2020, Skinner contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized and also diagnosed with pneumonia.
When she sat down with TODAY’s Hoda Kotb last month, she revealed that for a time, she was uncertain if she’d ever be able to return to the sport she loved
“I survived,” she said. “I mean, I wanted to give up so many times. I was like, ‘I don't even know if I can do this anymore.’”
Of course, she rallied and made it all the way to Tokyo after securing an individual spot on the U.S. gymnastics team, later telling Hoda, “I'm really glad that I never gave up my dream and I kept going and have pushed myself to come back for this Olympics.”
No matter what, she can now call herself an Olympian. And when Sunday’s individual vault competition comes around, she might be able to call herself a contender again.
Skinner narrowly lost out in the vault qualifiers after finishing in fourth place — and while that put her well above many other gymnasts, it left her behind two other members of Team USA, Jade Carey and Simone Biles. Only two gymnasts from each country can compete in the individual gymnastics events.
Now, if Biles, who’s already withdrawn from the team and individual all-around competitions, bows out of the vault event, Skinner stands a good chance of being called back into the action.
Until then, both women have been seen side-by-side in the stands cheering on other Team USA athletes.