San Francisco Chronicle

Skinner sticks around, captures silver medal

- By David Barron David Barron covers the Olympics for Hearst Newspapers.

TOKYO — MyKayla Skinner thought her elite gymnastics career was over.

Then, with Simone Biles’ decision not to compete in the women’s vault finals, it wasn’t.

And now, Skinner is an Olympic silver medalist.

Skinner, who at 24 along with Biles represents the senior citizens’ brigade among the sixmember USA Gymnastics women’s contingent, resumed training on short notice after Biles withdrew from Sunday’s vault final. Skinner finished second to Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade.

The former University of Utah gymnast was an alternate for the 2016 Games and was named to the 2021 team as an individual athlete. She competed in the Sunday preliminar­ies but did not qualify for the allaround. She was set to return home last week when team officials asked her to stick around in case Biles was unable to compete.

Skinner’s two vaults averaged 14.916, second to Andrade’s score of 15.083. Seojeong Yeo of South Korea won the bronze at 14.733.

Jade Carey of Phoenix, who qualified for the Olympics as an individual athlete through the Internatio­nal Gymnastics Federation’s World Cup circuit, had a near disastrous first vault when she appeared to trip on the runway carpet as she approached the vaulting table. She finished eighth.

Skinner also is a favorite among the rabid gymternet fan base because of her success at college and her ability, after competing more basic routines on the NCAA level, to ramp her game back up to contend for the Olympic team. Her relatively advanced age also helps refute the notion that gymnastics is a sport for teenagers only.

She also endured a round of COVID19 last year that hampered her endurance but made it back and won a medal with Biles cheering her on.

“To have her support and her having to step out of finals and her just pushing me along every single day to help me to place on that podium has been so cool,” Skinner said. “This has seriously just been so humbling, and I’m just so grateful.”

Although Skinner finished in the top 10 in prelims, she placed behind Biles, Sunisa Lee and Jade Carey and could not compete because of a limit of two allaround entrants per team.

“It’s been kind of hard to get my mindset back into the game,” Skinner said. “I’m like, oh my gosh, I’m going to be competing again. I had my mindset, like, I’m done, I’m ready to move on. (Prelims) was very devastatin­g, and it took me two days to be like, ‘OK, I’m good.’ ”

Carey, who will compete in floor finals, did not comment on her performanc­e. She started her roundoff somersault at the edge of the takeoff mat and failed to get a good block off the table, forcing her to cut the vault short.

“She could’ve gotten hurt,” Skinner said. “It was a fluky thing, and she was so disappoint­ed. We should have both been on the podium. I’m trying to help her stay positive.”

 ?? Ashley Landis / Associated Press ?? U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner shows off her silver medal after the vault finals.
Ashley Landis / Associated Press U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner shows off her silver medal after the vault finals.

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