Photo credit: today.com
Mykayla Skinner, Suni Lee Keep The Medals Coming For Team USA
Few athletes have chased their dreams for as long or as hard as MyKayla Skinner did. After serving as an alternate for the ‘Final Five’ during the Rio de Janeiro games, Skinner won a pair of NCAA titles and set her sights on returning to the elite level—and then the pandemic hit.
Even as Olympic training stretched from one year to two, she kept her eyes on the prize. When Skinner contracted the virus and suffered from pneumonia earlier this year, she pushed on. Finally, at the U.S. Olympic Trials, the 24-year-old earned her spot on the Olympic roster – with a catch. She was named to the newly minted +1 quota spot.
During qualifying, Skinner turned in four remarkable performances, highlighted by the fourth-highest score on the vault. However, she finished behind teammates Simone Biles and Jade Carey, which meant she was unable to compete further due to the two-per-country rule.
When team competition wrapped up, Skinner began processing the end of her gymnastics career and accepted the fact that she would be the only American gymnast to go home empty-handed. That is, until she was called on to replace the ailing Biles, who withdrew from the vault out of concerns for her health. Just like that, in the unlikeliest of circumstances, Skinner had found her chance.
Adding to the drama of the moment, Skinner was the first gymnast to vault in the finals. She amazingly rose to the occasion, receiving a 15.033 for her first-run Cheng to best both of her qualifying marks. Skinner’s Amanar on her second run wasn’t quite as clean, with a slight hop upon landing. Nevertheless, she was awarded a 14.800 to average a 14.916.
Brazil’s Rebecca Andrade narrowly bumped her out of first-place by posting an average of 15.083, but Skinner held onto silver for an improbable medal. Yeo Seo-jeong of South Korea took bronze (14.733). Having fulfilled her dream at last, Skinner announced her official retirement and spoke to what the moment meant for her after receiving her silver medal.
“After having COVID, I seriously didn’t know I would be able to go back into the gym, so just being able to overcome that and to keep pushing for my goals and to make it to the Olympics has been such an honor,” she said. “And now to go in for the vault final and win a silver medal, that’s the icing on the cake for me. Seriously, so unreal.”
Meanwhile, Suni Lee proved she isn’t finished yet — not by a longshot. After helping the U.S. claim silver in the team competition and winning an astonishing gold medal in the all-around, Lee added a bronze medal on the uneven bars to her growing collection.
The uneven bars are regarded as Lee’s best event. During the individual all-around competition, she topped the field with a 15.300. In qualifying on the bars, she scored a 15.200, the second-highest mark — as the youngest athlete in the field. Despite a few uncharacteristic slip-ups, Lee scored a 14.500 to climb the podium a third time. Belgium’s Nina Derwael won gold with a 15.200, while Anastasia Ilyankova of the Russian Olympic Committee won silver with a 14.833.
These tremendous performances by incredible young women are reminders to never stop working towards your goals — and to always be ready to face the most unexpected challenges. #gripyourfuture #gripyourdestiny