SALT LAKE CITY — With just under two months to go before the world kicks off the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, three University of Utah gymnasts will compete for a spot on Team USA's roster this weekend.
MyKayla Skinner, who is a familiar name for many Red Rocks fans after she spent three decorative years at Utah, will join two incoming freshmen, Kara Eaker and Grace McCallum, as they compete in the 2021 U.S. Championships and for the opportunity to be on the Olympic team.
The trio previously participated in the U.S. Classic in May where McCallum finish fourth, Eaker finished in ninth and Skinner, who contracted pneumonia after a bout with COVID-19 in December and was forced to interrupt her training at her club in Arizona, finished in 10th. But the three will be back at it in a two-day event at the Dickies Arena in Fort Worth, Texas.
How to watch:
The national championship event will involve two sessions, with the first taking place Friday. The championship will conclude Sunday for the women's senior national team participants.
- Session 1: Friday at 5:30 p.m. MT (NBCSN)
- Session 2: Sunday at 4:30 p.m. (NBC)
What's at stake?
The women's senior national team is comprised of 19 gymnasts from around the country, including reigning six-time champion Simone Biles, who is looking for her seventh national title. Because it's an Olympics year, though, each gymnast will also be competing for a spot (top eight finishers in the all-around) for the opportunity to be invited to the Olympic Team Trials that take place June 24-27.
From there, the gymnasts will compete again for a chance to earn a spot on the four-member team — down from the five allowed in 2016 — that will represent the United States in Tokyo. With Biles seemingly a lock for a spot on the team, only three spots likely remain. Two additional gymnasts, however, may be added as individuals to compete in the all-around or for a single apparatus, though their scores are not added to their team score.
Where do the Utes gymnasts stand?
McCallum, who broke her hand in January and still managed to place fourth in the all-around competition at the U.S. Classic, likely stands the best chance of qualifying for the eight-member team to advance to the Olympic Trials. Her all-around scores and experience as a member of the senior national team since 2018 give her a leg up on competition.
The Isanti, Minnesota, native helped lead the team to back-to-back gold medals at the World Championships in 2018 and 2019, where she claimed the silver medal in 2019 in the all-around. In 2019, McCallum finished third in the all-around at the U.S. Championship and fourth in 2018.
Eaker has been a two-time member of the senior national team and recently placed ninth in the U.S. Classic and fifth in the American Classic. Eaker, too, helped Team USA to back-to-back gold medals at the World Championships and placed in the beam finals — her strongest event — where she took fourth in 2019. If Eaker has a chance to make the team, it's likely on beam.
Skinner, who was an alternate to Team USA in 2016, dominated at the collegiate level at Utah before joining the senior national team at the conclusion of her junior season. She was named an alternate for the 2019 World Championships team and finished eighth in the all-around at the U.S. Championship in 2019.
Most recently, Skinner placed 10th in the all-around, but won the vault event at the U.S. Classic after a pause to her training due to COVID-19 and pneumonia. Skinner has the talent to qualify for a spot on the team, but has a tough road ahead of her this weekend. Her skillset and difficult routines in all events make her a viable candidate, but she needs a solid weekend for it to be possible.