SALT LAKE CITY — MyKayla Skinner entered the U.S. Olympic Team Trials looking to remove the "alternate" label from her Olympic-experience resume.
On Friday night in St. Louis, the 24-year-old gymnast showed why she should be taken seriously as one of the top candidates for a spot on the four-member Team USA at the Tokyo Olympics.
Seven-time national champion Simone Biles paced herself to a seemingly easy three-point lead before a national audience and has essentially guaranteed herself a spot on the team; but, arguably, nobody did more for themselves than Skinner, who finished with the fourth-best all-around score of the first session of the trials.
Skinner finished ninth at the U.S. Championships earlier this month and needed a strong showing at trials to be considered for a spot on the team — and it appears she's peaking at the right time. Skinner had the third-best vault at trials, falling behind only Biles and Jade Carey, who already earned an individual spot through the World Cup series; Skinner also had the fifth-best scores on beam and floor.
But not to be outdone, soon-to-be Utes freshmen Grace McCallum and Kara Eaker finished in fifth and seventh, respectively, in the all-around standings. The duo still has a shot to make the team, if nothing more than as a potential alternate — both helped the U.S. to a world team championship in 2019.
"I definitely love talking to them and just hanging out with them outside of gymnastics and everything — just getting to hang out with them," Eaker said of her experience at trials with her future Red Rock teammates. "It's just such a joy because they're just such great people, and I'm so excited to share that with them next fall."
The Red Rocks trio will take part in the second and final session of trials Sunday night. A total of 18 members of the U.S. senior national team will compete Sunday, with the Olympians being named at the conclusion of the meet.
- Simone Biles - 60.565
- Sunisa Lee - 57.666
- Jordan Chiles - 57.132
- MyKayla Skinner - 56.598
- Grace McCallum - 56.498
- Kayla DiCello - 56.298
- Kara Eaker - 55.565
- Shilese Jones - 54.999
The top two gymnasts in the all-around score at the end of Sunday night's session receive an automatic spot on the four-member team. The other two spots will be selected by the Women's Athlete Selection Committee, which is made up of USA Gymnastics' team coordinator Tom Forster, other USA Gymnastics officials and an athlete representative.
Additionally, a "plus-one" specialist that will compete as an individual may be selected, as well as the nominative spot earned by Carey previously mentioned. Though not guaranteed, Riley McCusker appears to be the favorite to claim the specialist spot — she only competed on bars Friday and scored the second-highest score on the event with a 14.800.
The selection committee does not have to follow the order of the all-around scores at trials in deciding who to take for the final two spots, but the committee attempts to form the most competitive unit possible for Tokyo. Only the top three scores are counted during the Olympic Games, so high scores and consistency become a key contributing factor in the selection process.
USA Gymnastics says the criteria for selecting athletes includes "competition results, team needs, start values, execution values, and consistency, among other things." Assuming the top three in the standings remain (and are added to the team), the next most obvious choice would likely come down to Skinner, McCallum and DiCello, who are separated by three-tenths of a point.
Still, it's anyone's game to claim a spot on the team, and the second session will go a long way in helping the committee select its best team possible to repeat as gold medal winners in the 2021 Olympics.
The U.S. may select up to five gymnasts to serve as alternates, who will also be named Sunday evening.
How to watch
The second and final session of the trials concludes Sunday. The meet begins at 6 p.m. MDT and can be streamed live on NBCSports.com or a slightly delayed version on NBC starting at 7 p.m. MDT.
- TV: NBC (KSL will begin broadcasting the gymnastic trials at 7 p.m. MDT)
- Apparatus livestream: NBCSports.com