Three Utah Gymnasts Qualify for Tokyo Olympics  

University+of+Utah+women%27s+gymnastics+sophomore+MyKayla+Skinner+performs+on+the+balance+beam+in+a+duel+meet+vs.+The+University+of+Georgia+Bulldogs+at+the+Jon+M.+Huntsman+Center+in+Salt+Lake+City%2C+Utah+on+Friday%2C+March+16%2C+2018.%28Photo+by+Kiffer+Creveling+%7C+The+Daily+Utah+Chronicle%29

University of Utah women’s gymnastics sophomore MyKayla Skinner performs on the balance beam in a duel meet vs. The University of Georgia Bulldogs at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City, Utah on Friday, March 16, 2018.(Photo by Kiffer Creveling | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Sean Overton, Sports Writer

 

The Red Rocks have had a fantastic season, but they added in an unexpected surprise after the end of it. Three Utah gymnasts will be competing in the Tokyo Olympics this year.

Incoming freshman Grace McCallum earned a place on the four-gymnast Team USA squad, MyKayla Skinner earned her Olympic berth as an individual competitor, and incoming freshman Kara Eaker rounds out the three Utes and will be competing as an alternate.

All three Utes finished top-seven in the all-around standings of the Olympic Team Trials. McCallum finished fourth with a score of 112.564, Skinner placed fifth with a score of 112.264, and Eaker placed seventh with a score of 111.097.

McCallum displayed excellent consistency and talent throughout the trials as she finished fourth on the floor and fifth on the uneven bars and the balance beam. On the first day of competition she posted the second-best floor score, and the third-best score on bars on Sunday.

The selection committee was only looking to fill two spots on the Team USA squad, and McCallum was selected for one of them. The key to McCallum’s selection was her incredible ability to perform well in every category. Her lowest final position was fifth, proving that she could be an essential part of the Team USA squad.

McCallum also brings some more experience to this squad, despite being just 18 years old. She was part of the world-title winning U.S. teams in 2018 and 2019. She will be joined by Jordan Chiles, Sunisa Lee and four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles on this Team USA squad as they look to find victory in Tokyo.

Skinner, a two-time NCAA Champion for the Utes, has decided that she will be retiring from collegiate gymnastics. She announced this after she qualified for the Olympics as an individual. Skinner placed second on vault and seventh overall on floor, showing her incredible skill and earning her an individual spot.

Skinner finished just behind McCallum, who was the final gymnast selected to make the team squad. Fortunately, she was able to qualify as an individual, a new addition to the games this year. The International Gymnastics Federation has structured a four-member team and two individuals to allow smaller countries to compete that aren’t able to field a whole team.

Skinner was previously an alternate on the 2016 Olympic team but retired from collegiate athletics to take another shot at becoming an Olympian. It is fair to say that it has paid off, with her placing fifth in all-around, just barely missing the team spots, but scoring enough to make it as an individual.

Eaker was the final Ute selected, shining on the balance beam and floor. She finished second on the balance beam, ending up just behind Lee. She also took sixth overall on the floor, finishing seventh overall in the all-around.

This squad will still have a lot to prove throughout the competition, but they are undoubtedly the toughest team to beat at Tokyo. The U.S. have fielded the previous two Olympic champion teams, as well as the previous four all-around gold medalists. Making this Team USA squad may be just as hard as earning a podium at the Games.

Since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, the U.S. women have gone undefeated with a combined seven victories in the Olympic and world championship team competitions. The individual all-around competition goes back even further, with a U.S. gymnast having won every gold medal since Carly Patterson in 2004.

It is an incredible feat that three Utah gymnasts have made this prestigious squad. It would be amazing for any collegiate program to be able to send one of their gymnasts to the Olympics, let alone three. Utah Gymnastics has collected plenty of accolades, but the potential for three Utah gymnasts to collect the gold in Tokyo will be tough to beat.

Skinner officially retiring from collegiate gymnastics will take a large toll on the Red Rocks. Her age and experience allowed her to be one of the best on the team, along with being a fantastic leader to the newer gymnasts on the team. She certainly had a large role in making Utah Gymnastics what it is today.

But as one door closes, another one opens, or another two in this case. McCallum and Eaker are both incoming freshman to Utah. This will be amazing for the team since they will already have lots of experience competing at a professional level before competing in collegiate athletics.

This is a Red Rocks team that finished third in the NCAA Championship meet last year, and now they are adding two Olympians to the roster. Fans should be prepared for Utah to take another deep run into the postseason this year, and they might just have what it takes to win it all for the first time since 1995.

 

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@SeanOverton3