Tokyo — After she got up from the vault, stopped landing and greeted her, Mikaila Skinner heard a roar from her teammates watching at the stand. One voice seemed to be louder than the other. Simone Biles supported Skinner by becoming a silver medal-winning performance.
“I knew she would be the loudest person out there tonight,” Skinner said.
Skinner has always dreamed of competing in the Olympics. She explained that the unexpected 11-hour opportunity was a “one-millionth” chance she wouldn’t waste.
She couldn’t be there and competed in the vault in the women’s event final on Sunday.
She had the fourth highest score in qualifying. However, the rules allow each country to allow up to two athletes in the final. Biles and Jade Carey finished first and second, driving Skinner out of the competition.
She was overwhelmed by the appearance of her Olympic and gymnastics career ending in qualifying. She was preparing to fly home.
24-year-old Skinner posted a farewell online.
“This is the end of my gymnastics career book,” she writes. “For now, I try to fill the hole in my heart.”
But then Biles struggled in the team final on Tuesday and withdrew from the tournament. Biles sent a text to Skinner telling the coach to stay in case she couldn’t keep up the competition and Skinner had to intervene.
Biles was struggling with what gymnasts call “twisty.” This is because I suddenly lost control of my body when I was flying in the sky. Skinner said he had it once but was able to rebound immediately. She knows another gymnast who took weeks to recover. Biles was deciding every day whether she was willing to compete in any competition.
Skinner said he had a hard time getting his head back into the game. After qualifying, she resigned to go home and move on. But she said she rallyed with the help of Biles and other members of the team.
Biles decided not to play the next day on Saturday.
Skinner posted the news on Twitter. Simone Biles, doing this for us. It’s a go-time baby. “
Biles told her: I want you to get a medal. “
Skinner’s path to the Olympics was neither straight nor easy.
She was a replacement player for the 2016 Olympic team, who won the gold medal in Rio de Janeiro. She was frustrated because she scored the fourth highest score in qualifying.
After that, she retired from elite gymnastics and devoted herself to her college career at the University of Utah. Having participated in college, I became absorbed in sports again and chose to return home driven by a strong desire to form an Olympic team in Tokyo in 2019.
COVID-19 delayed her training. She caught the virus and was hospitalized in January. She was absent from the gym for about a month and wasn’t sure if she would come back.
But she did, marking an unprecedented comeback at the age of 24. This age was considered ancient in this sport dominated by teens.
“I think it’s very cool to show that age is just a number and that if you work hard and dream, you can do anything,” Skinner said, and a young gymnast in the sport gave her patience. He added that he wanted to be inspired.
Only Brazil’s Rebeca Andrade, who brought back the money, scored high on Sunday. When Skinner stood on the podium, she saved her biggest wave for when she turned to her teammates on the stand. Biles and others danced and shouted.
“It’s so weird, I’m not used to seeing her on the stand,” Skinner said.
She said Biles was generous throughout the trials. She is calm and cheerful — laughing and laughing with them all day — and encourages her teammates to give them all.
“She’s definitely one powerful cookie,” Skinner said. “She inspired me in many ways.”
She’s worried that the situation will sink when everyone goes home, but Biles, 24, thinks it’s okay.
“After all, it’s not just gymnastics. I know she’s really looking forward to what’s going to happen,” said Skinner, who is also excited about her next chapter. I’m ready. “
She goes to school for sports broadcasting. Now she dreams of starting a family.