Skinner Fights Back for Three Event Golds

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Senior all-around medalists MyKayla Skinner, Emily Lee, and Audrey Rousseau

This weekend, MyKayla Skinner competed internationally for the first time in four years after taking a break from elite gymnastics to focus on a collegiate career at the University of Utah, where she was a star of the program with a near-perfect hit rate.

As the 2020 Olympics drew year, Skinner had to wrestle with the decision of staying at Utah for her senior year in the 2019-2020 season, or taking the year off to have another run at the Games after earning an alternate spot in 2016. Ultimately, she decided she had to at least try, and so she returned to the domestic stage last summer, finishing a promising eighth all-around at nationals – kind of a big deal considering she had returned to elite-level training just a few months earlier – and then surprising literally everyone with a fourth-place finish at the world championships selection camp, earning an alternate spot for the team in Stuttgart.

After taking a post-worlds break to get married, Skinner went right back to the gym, and planned on making her competitive debut for the year at the Jesolo meet in April, but with the coronavirus outbreak causing the organizers to cancel, Skinner got only a few days’ notice that she’d instead be jumping right back into competition at Gymnix.

Skinner’s competition on Friday started out a bit rough on bars and beam, where nerves seemed to take hold and she ended up missing a few connections on both while also rushing through her bars set and falling on a leap on beam. She came back with a solid floor routine, and hit both her Yurchenko double and Cheng, though despite coming in as the strongest competitor at this meet, she instead ended up second all-around with a 52.631.

It wasn’t what she hoped for as her official return as a member of the U.S. national team, but getting that comeback meet out of the way is half the battle, and by Sunday afternoon, she was ready to take it to the next level, winning gold medals on vault, bars, and floor in the three apparatus finals she competed in.

Her DTY on vault looked even better than it did on Friday, and though she ended up tucking the Cheng a bit, getting it downgraded to a Khorkina, she still easily won the gold there with a 14.367, the second-highest two-vault average so far this year behind teammate Jade Carey. On bars, she got all of her connections, hitting her Weiler half to Maloney to Tkachev, Ray to Pak, van Leeuwen, and blind full to Fabrichnova – a 6.0 routine – with only minor form breaks for a 13.766. And on floor, she nailed her “Whatever Lola Wants” routine with a Moors, double double, tucked full-in, and front tuck through to 2½ for a 14.133.

Even though Skinner was rushed back into competing a month earlier than she expected, how she handled the change in circumstances is just as important as her scores here. There’s still time to work on the little things in her routines that will need cleaning up in time for trials this summer, but you can’t teach mental game, and Skinner showed she has more than enough to spare.

Also competing for the U.S. senior team were Emily Lee, who won all-around gold with a 53.831, Faith Torrez, who finished fourth with a 52.198, and Lilly Lippeatt, who was fifth with a 51.399. This was the international debut for both Lee and Torrez, while it also marked Lippeatt’s senior debut, and while it wasn’t a perfect meet for anyone, it was impressive to see this relatively young and inexperienced group come together to win gold as a team.

Lee continued to prove her strengths as a talented performer on beam and floor, coming away with a silver medal on the latter, and she also made the bars final, though had to withdraw due to a jammed finger. Torrez added some major difficulty to her beam set, taking the gold on that event with a 13.966, and Lippeatt was excellent on floor on Friday, though didn’t make the final due to the two-per-country rule.

While the senior team in Montreal was mostly a B team, the U.S. sent both of the country’s top juniors to Gymnix, and they absolutely didn’t disappoint, with Skye Blakely taking the gold medal with a 56.132 while Konnor McClain won the silver with a 55.098, and newcomer Katelyn Jong – a Hopes competitor last summer – finished third with a 52.498, though she was unable to bring home the bronze again due to two-per-country (Kaliya Lincoln, also relatively new to the junior program, only competed on floor).

The U.S. juniors also dominated event finals, where McClain swept the golds with a 14.267 average on vault, a 14.100 on bars, a 13.466 on beam, and a 13.166 on bars, while Blakely won silvers on vault, bars, and beam, as well as the bronze on floor.

Outside of the United States, the senior competition saw some incredible work from the young Belgian team, with one of the most exciting moments for me being Maellyse Brassart debuting a Yurchenko double on vault. She didn’t have the best day overall, but that vault was a big ‘get’ for the program and if she gets it a little stronger and more consistent, it could be her ticket to Tokyo.

Lisa Vaelen was the top all-arounder for the country, finishing sixth with a 51.132, while individual competitors Jade Vansteenkiste and Stacy Bertrandt finished eighth and ninth, and then team competitors Margaux Daveloose and Fien Enghels were 11th and 13th, with Brassart down in 21st. Everyone had off-moments here, but event finals went a bit better, with Enghels sharing the gold on bars with Skinner, while Brassart won the bronze on beam, and Vansteenkiste took the bronze on floor.

For Canada, Ana Padurariu ended up sitting out due to an illness, but Audrey Rousseau was able to step up in her absence to take bronze in the all-around with a 52.532. The others on each of Canada’s team had a pretty rough time overall on Friday, but like many others here, event finals on Sunday were a bit better, with Sophie Marois and Mia St-Pierre winning silver and bronze on vault, while the team had a few fourth-place finishes on each event, as Victoria-Kayen Woo had a solid bars set for a 12.833, Marois hit beam for a 12.733, and Rose-Kaying Woo and Isabela Onyshko tied for fourth on floor.

The Australians also had a team here, with Kate McDonald the country’s top finisher in seventh all-around with a 50.766, and she also took the silver medal on beam with a 13.100 for a lovely set. Her teammates Breanna Scott, Talia Folino, and Romi Brown also made finals, as did individual competitor Miriana Perkins.

Belgium also had a really strong junior team in Montreal, with Kéziah Langendock winning all-around bronze with a 51.365, while Jutta Verkest was sixth with a 51.098 in addition to winning the bronze on bars.

The Canada 2 team edged out Canada 1 for bronze by under a tenth, thanks to a standout performance from Sydney Turner, who finished fifth all-around while making three finals. Canada 1 was also strong, thanks especially to performances from Gemini gymnasts Ava Stewart and Bailey Inglis, both of whom broke 50 in the all-around to finish seventh and eighth, which was a pretty big improvement compared to Elite Canada. Inglis also won silver on floor and bronze on vault, while Stewart won the bronze on beam, and for the Canada 2 team, Sydney Turner proved to be an excellent all-arounder, finishing fifth while making three finals.

Chloe Saliaris was the top junior for Australia, finishing ninth all-around with a 50.166, while Julia Dumrath was Germany’s best, finishing 18th all-around with a 47.498.

In the challenge division, where gymnasts not part of teams invited to the Senior and Junior Cup can represent either their club or their country, Sloane Blakely of WOGA won gold with a 50.232, while Jordis Eichman of Colorado Aerials – who hasn’t qualified elite yet in the U.S. this year – won the silver with a 50.066, and bronze was shared between Chloe Cho of Waller’s GymJam in the U.S. and Charlotte Shin of Australia, both of whom earned a 49.765.

Article by Lauren Hopkins

25 thoughts on “Skinner Fights Back for Three Event Golds

  1. that’s crazy how high the two jr scored relative to the sr this weekend.
    Well, at least i hope they got the answer they need about skinner’s cheng. I never thought it was a problem about getting it credited. It might not be the prettiest cheng but it works when it works. But skinner does have the work cut out for her the next few months

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    • Well, they sent the top two U.S. juniors and the senior team was mostly B team at best with the exception of MyKayla, AND they had a ton of mistakes. Canada’s four top seniors were also all missing from this meet, and Belgium didn’t have some of its top seniors as well, so not really a top senior field, honestly.

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  2. I think this proves Mykayla is absolutely in the mix for Tokyo, not just for vault, but floor and AA too. Qualifications looked rough, but she turned it out. I’m so excited for her!

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  3. People keep writing MyKayla off, but with Jade Carey getting the individual spot, MyKayla makes sense. If she’s top 3 on vault and top 4 on floor with a high enough AA score, she’s gonna be hard to leave at home, especially if Simone is the only other athlete with a non-DTY. It’ll be interesting to see what bars and beam are looking like for everyone, though

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    • Yup. My “perfect team” is Simone, Sunisa, Morgan, and MyKayla because it’s a great balance in terms of what they can offer, and they have the potential to be the top four all-arounders in the country (and possibly even the world). MyKayla’s Cheng is really going to give her an edge, and she has great potential to score well on beam and floor. Bars is bars, but she got her highest score of her comeback yesterday on this event and a high 13 is kind of remarkable for her in this code, so even though she’d probably have the “throw-away” routine in Olympic qualifications, she’s still putting up a good enough number to sub her routine in if needed.

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      • Yeah, I see Grace as Mykayla’s biggest competition if she gets the Amanar…but I think MyKayla wins if Grace has the DTY and the high 13s she usually gets on floor. But then again, Tom will probably just take the top four all-around, and Grace has a strong shot at beating MyKayla that way because she’s stronger on UB/BB, so that could be her “in.” With strategy, MyKayla goes, but with the stupid “top four” nonsense, Grace could go. If she gets the Amanar, she jumps even higher above MyKayla, though.

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  4. Lauren… who do you think the other individual spot will go to from the USA? I would think they would want a Beam or Bars girl since Jade is going for her FX and vault. I am curious about riley McCusker, if she has a chance for the Bars and beam spot.

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    • It would depend if they’re just going to give this spot to whoever places 5th AA with no consideration about medal potential (since this spot could potentially be a built-in alternate for the team), or if they’re going to put more thought into it, in which case my PERSONAL hope is that Laurie Hernandez will come back as a total baller on beam and get the spot, but I can see it going to Riley or Kara as well, since they’re both also strong all-arounders and could be potential event medalists and ALSO act as built-in alternates. But it really just depends on how they all look this summer!

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      • Unless hernandez somehow got a miracle strong AA program by summer, it’s not gonna happen. Tom already spell it out that he won’t take a non nominative individual just for one event and only 1 event. That person needs to have a good AA program to back up the 4 member team.

        Riley and Kara are great if they can somehow get it together by summer.

        The way things are going, I am pretty sure that he will just take the top 5 AA at trials and I guess maybe 1 or 2 alternates?

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  5. Come on Lauren, I just watched Skinner on youtube competing. She looked better at worlds camp, and podium training at Worlds. Here she looked off. I’m not just saying that cause she fell on BB. She did great on floor on ef going over 14, but her moors her knees were bent soft, her dty looked like she could barely get it around. Her cheng or KHORKINA rather wasn’t looking as strong as her training videos, and BACK TO one hand despite her training videos showing LOOK MA TWO hands. I want her on the team I guess for underdog SENTIMENTAL reasons, but this competition imo doesn’t prove anything. IMO her vaults, tumbles looked better when she first got back, camp, and podium at worlds. If anything I’m more worried. I didnt see her vault from EF only her floor. If Grace, and Leanne come with upgrades, and unless Skinner improves much from this, Im worried for her. Hopefully she improves. And I wish someone would tell her or just for the love of god try, to point her toes when she flips. Her feet are together, her legs are together, but as soon as she does any flip she flexes her feet as if she is wearing sandals! It would be so clean. Those little things for her imo matter. Every tenth squeezed out. When she twists, great form. But flipping in sandals.

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    • As I said in the article, literally the point of the article, she wasn’t expecting to compete for another month and was training to start coming back for early April, not for March. Given the circumstances, and the fact that she literally had to whip her routines together with only a few days notice after finding out she’d be going to Montreal, she did a pretty damn good job.

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      • Okay got that. But what has she been doing since worlds? Has she not been training all this time since worlds that whipping out routines in a few days would be such a hard task? Was she on vacation?

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        • Yeah, she got married and had a honeymoon and took about a month off of gymnastics. Most gymnasts go on hiatus between worlds and the beginning of the next season, with two months of limited training the best way to stay healthy. No one finishes worlds and then goes back to the gym and works at the same pace. During her comeback, Alicia Sacramone didn’t do gymnastics for four months after worlds in 2010 because her body needed that time to heal. She still worked out, but stayed out of her gym until February the following year. She took an extended break because she wasn’t planning on competing again until classics, so four months was fine for her, but for MyKayla and others in her situation, two months of hiatus with limited training is normal, and then you come back early the next year and start to build it back. Most gymnasts aim to be at about 75% by classics, 85-90% by nationals, and then 100% by olympic trials or worlds selection camps. No one is at 100% right now. It’s not like someone starts as an elite at age 12 or 13 and then keeps building on that until she retires however many years later. There are high-intensity periods and low-intensity, and right now is and should be a low-intensity period for MyKayla. She literally came back to competition this weekend a month ahead of schedule with no notice, which would be BRUTAL for most gymnasts, yet she won AA silver (with multiple mistakes and a much lower beam D) and three golds and I’d say she’s not even close to about 75% of what she’s capable of.

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        • Point remains. Training videos she has been showing, RECENT ones, looked NOTHING like she did in this competition. NOTHING. So it wasnt her in the instagram videos then? lol One arm cheng, moors with bent legs, flat dty, dont match up with her recent training videos AT ALL. So save the pacing, marriage (nov 14) Dec to March, yeah there is time. Stop. No one was expecting her to be 100% AT ALL, but to revert everything back to OLD MYKAYLA which contrasts her training videos that showed improvement, and people saying OH YES SHE IS SOOO IN THE MIX. Like where? Im sorry but Alicia could have afforded 4 months off, because she has the form and technique Skinner never had. PLUS it was 2010. 2 years away from an Olympics. Elite girls can come out of the gym, when not expecting to compete, and not be 100% but not lose ALL of their improvements they have SHOWN a week earlier! lol stop. I hope she gets it together.

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        • Training and competing are…not the same thing. Why do I have to explain this? lol. Do you also think Sienna Robinson can compete a quadruple double on floor because she threw one in the gym when she was 10? You clearly haven’t done gymnastics before or haven’t trained/known anyone who has trained at a high level in any sport. You just don’t understand anything, and that’s fine, but if you don’t have even a basic understanding of even something as simple as routines in training vs routines in competition, there’s no point in trying to explain, apparently.

          I saw MyKayla bust out three pretty perfect-for-her beam routines when I was at her gym and my jaw dropped because it was STUNNING. Every time. But I also wasn’t expecting her to come out and get an 8+ E score on beam in her first competition back because I knew her competition routines wouldn’t look like her training routines at this stage. And that’s what happened…she was nervous when competing, lost most of her connections, and had a fall. It’s literally what I expected from someone in her first international competition in four years no matter HOW good her routine looked in training.

          Also most of the videos you’re seeing of her training are one skill or combination at a time, not full routines. When I was at her gym, MyKayla wasn’t even doing full bars sets…just two or three skills at a time, over and over again until she got them perfect, and no dismounts. That was THREE WEEKS AGO. The fact that she linked all of her skills together and competed her full routine in that short span of time is actually insane. Just ask Nastia in 2012 if three weeks was enough time to piece everything together. She couldn’t do it. MyKayla did. It wasn’t pretty, but she competed a 5.8 SV and got the highest score of her comeback on this event when she wasn’t even doing full routines three weeks ago, so like…again, if you don’t understand the significance of this, you don’t understand training at the elite level. She didn’t “lose her improvements”…you just think that single-skill videos mean something when they don’t.

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        • The only person on the national team that didn’t take a significant winter break after nationals was Morgan. And it showed, she killed it. What that means for the next few critical months remains to be seen.

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        • Right, and she knew she’d be going straight to the American Cup for months in advance so she trained to be at a super strong point there. Pretty much everyone else was training for a late March/early April return.

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  6. With the NCAA canceling all of the winter and spring championships I’m glad Skinner took the year off, regardless of if she makes the Olympic team or not. My heart is broken for all of the athletes in all sports who have worked so hard and have had their post seasons canceled.

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