Skinner Soaking up the College Experience

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Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle

Freshman MyKayla Skinner performs her floor exercise during the Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics victory over the UCLA Bruins at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

Freshman MyKayla Skinner performs her floor exercise during the Utah Red Rocks Gymnastics victory over the UCLA Bruins at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (Rishi Deka, Daily Utah Chronicle)

One memory that freshman MyKayla Skinner laughs about from time to time stems from a practice when she was with the U.S. women’s gymnastics team at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

“One day we went into the gym, and the floor smelled really bad and out comes this huge rat crawling out of the floor,” Skinner said. “It’s one thing we always remember and we joke about.”

For Skinner, not only is she getting the opportunity to compete with the University of Utah gymnastics team, she was also an alternate for the U.S. gymnastics team during the Olympics in Rio.

Before heading to Rio, Skinner went to Olympic Trials to compete for a spot on the team. While it was stressful, Skinner said it was one to remember.

“I didn’t feel that stressed out, but I definitely was,” Skinner said. “I had all these weird things happening to my body, like I was breaking out, but it was really fun, especially with the crowd. On Saturday when we competed [against UCLA], that’s how it felt at Olympic Trials. It was just crazy.”

During her time in Rio, Skinner said while her experience was fun, it was hard because she and the other alternates didn’t get to stay with the Final Five. However, facing the hardships was nothing in comparison to the fun Skinner had experiencing what it was like being an Olympian.

While the equipment wasn’t as good, Skinner thought it was cool to experience how the Olympians train. One thing that really stood out for Skinner was being able to watch the girls compete.

“Most alternates don’t really get to [watch], so it was exciting getting to cheer them on and having that experience to see what they do,” Skinner said. “All around, it was just really fun and cool, and I’m glad I got the opportunity to do it.”

Co-head coach Megan Marsden feels Skinner’s experience with the team in Rio helps her in the collegiate level, especially in execution, saying she has worked long and hard to get to where she is now.

Marsden mentioned Skinner was always known as a trickster — throwing hard tricks — but that she was also sloppy. This past year, Marsden knew Skinner had to address some of those weaknesses, but she got much of that done before she arrived at Utah.

“What I was so impressed with in watching her career before she got here was how much she and her coaches attempted to give her the opportunity to make it at the highest level, and we are benefiting from that,” Marsden said. “She doesn’t seem to mind at all working on some of the finer details, so she doesn’t get any deductions.”

All that seemed to click for Skinner this season, especially on Saturday’s meet against UCLA. However, Skinner wasn’t the only Olympian on the floor that night as fans got to see UCLA’s Madison Kocian (2016 Olympian) and Kyla Ross (2012 Olympian) compete in the Huntsman Center.

“I went to talk to [Madison] and Kyla before the meet,” Skinner said. “Me and Madison have been texting each other a couple of weeks before, and we were excited to see each other. We took pictures after as well. It was so good to see her again because we were close, especially through Elite.”

Looking ahead in her career, going to the Olympics in 2020 is in the back of Skinner’s mind, but she doesn’t have a set-in-stone answer right now because she is having fun competing at the college level.

“I know that my coaches back at home are wanting me to try Worlds again, and they are there if I want to do it, so that’s also in the back of my head,” Skinner said. “But right now, I just want to get through my freshman year college and just see how everything goes. It’s a possibility though.”

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