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SALT LAKE CITY — When you have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to fulfill a dream, you have to take your shot. For MyKayla Skinner, she’s getting a second chance at her dream — the Olympics.
The University of Utah gymnast announced Thursday that she would make a run for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, Japan. Skinner placed fourth at the 2016 Olympic Trials but was passed for the five-woman team and named an alternate instead.
“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. I can make it this time and try my best,” Skinner said. “It gives me the shakes. It doesn’t seem real.”
The junior said she’s known for a while that she wanted to reach for her goal again, the biggest reason being the regret factor. Her club coach, Lisa Spini, said Skinner will be able to rest assured knowing she gave Olympic training another chance. If she didn’t try, she’d never know.
“It’s a win-win for her,” Spini said.
Skinner will return to her club, Desert Lights Gymnastics, in Arizona next week to train and work with Spini. Spini wanted to keep as much stress off Skinner as possible once she learned of the decision. Skinner's club coach been working with USA Gymnastics’ national team coordinator Tom Forster to get Skinner back into elite gymnastics.
The two have already started to design Skinner's routines, but Skinner will have input throughout.
Spini believes that the transition back into elite gymnastics won’t be too hard for Skinner. She said the trickster stopped by when in town during breaks from school and could still “easily do harder skills” than she performed in college. Skinner performed the most difficult routines in NCAA gymnastics history, hitting 166 of 167 landings.
Spini said she believes collegiate gymnastics helped Skinner “pay attention to details” on her form.
“Before college she asked me, ‘What if I want to come back?’ We asked Utah to not change her vault and bars settings and the coaches did great. That should help,” Spini said.
The biggest priority is to take care of Skinner’s body. She’s now 22 years old and on the older edge of the gymnastics’ spectrum. Spini and Skinner said they’ll ease into training and not overdo it.
Skinner, who has paused her collegiate career to pursue the Olympics, didn’t rule out a return to Utah for her senior season after the Olympics.
“I feel like my body has held up well,” Skinner said. “I want to focus on the Olympics now and if everything feels pretty good do one more year.”
“She is one of those rare athletes who only comes along once in a while,” Utah head coach Tom Farden 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 said he’ll reserve a scholarship for Skinner until the end of summer. By then, she will have competed in the American Classic and the U.S. Classic to determine her future.
“Being a part of this team has meant the world to me,” Skinner 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.”