TOKYO — The phrase “third time’s the charm” holds new significance for gymnast MyKayla Skinner.
In 2012, she was just old enough to compete at the Olympics but wasn’t selected to be a part of the gold-medal-winning Fierce Five. Four years later, she was named a replacement athlete and traveled to Rio but didn’t perform a competitive routine, as the Final Five were healthy enough to win gold. She retired from elite gymnastics and went on to an illustrious career at the University of Utah, hitting a record 161 consecutive routines without a fall while still performing the difficult skills that she was known for at the elite level.
But her desire to become an Olympian never faded, and the 24-year-old, who jokingly calls herself a grandma because she is older than most of her teammates and competitors, made one final push for Tokyo.
At the U.S. Olympic Trials in June, Skinner was selected as an individual specialist, meaning she was not a part of the four-member team that won silver but could compete for medals on individual events. The two vaults she performed during the qualification round in Tokyo scored high enough to place her in fourth behind Simone Biles and Jade Carey, but because of a rule that only allows two gymnasts from each country to advance to an event final, Skinner got bumped.
It looked like her Olympic experience was over, and she had a flight booked back home to Arizona. Then Biles withdrew from vault and uneven…