Mykayla Skinner: Sights Set on 2016

11:29 PM Arabian Punch Front 0 Comments

Mykayla Skinner at Podium Training for 2013 US Classic
Credit: USA Gymnastics

Mykayla Skinner is an American gymnast known for having one of the most difficult floor routines in the world. She finished third on vault and floor at 2013 US Nationals and 6th in the all-around earning herself a spot on the 2013 US National Team. This marks Skinner's 2nd year on the National Team - her first was in 2011 as a junior. She did not have the chance to qualify for the team in 2012 since she was dealing with inflammation in her back. Despite this, Skinner says that starting elite and making the National Team have been highlights of her gymnastics career thus far.

Skinner is most well known for the double twisting double layout, a skill she debuted at a Level 10 meet earlier this year. She is one of only two women to compete this skill. Although she did not make the World Championship team, this skill was given an I-rating - the highest possible in women's artistic gymnastics.

"When I first learned it, I wasn't too scared but when I moved it to the floor it was scary so I just had to stay calm and not freak out in the middle. When I competed it for the first time, that was challenging. I was really nervous but I just kept myself focused and remembered what it felt like to practice it in the gym."

The elite season was off to a rough start for Mykayla as multiple falls kept her out of the top group at both the 2013 Secret Classic and Day 1 of 2013 US Nationals.

"I knew I had to work a lot harder so during the training practices before Day 2, I just tried to stay focused and get done what I needed to in order to get better. Every night, I would visualize all of my routines until they were perfect. It helped a lot to stay focused, repeat every skill, repeat the tightness, repeat everything."

She rebounded well on Day 2 of Nationals to finish 3rd on vault and floor and 6th in the all around. Skinner managed to stick the double twisting double layout earning a gasp from the crowd and a jaw dropping reaction from US Olympian Sam Mikulak.

After Nationals, Mykayla headed to the Karolyi Ranch in Texas for the World Championship Selection Camp.

"It was very difficult. I had to be working very hard in the gym for all my routines to be perfect. When we got there, it was stressful but fun at the same time. I just had to keep myself focused on what I was doing and just tried to work hard, just like the other girls did."

Although Skinner did not make the 2013 Worlds team, she is back training and working on many upgrades. "I'm working a triple double and a [Yurchenko] half on, 2.5 twists off for vault and definitely working on my flexibility and leaps." Skinner hopes to bring back her Amanar vault, the coveted Yurchenko on, 2.5 twist off, for the coming competition season. Her other vault is currently the Cheng: a round off half on, 1.5 twists off. Now, she hopes to add another full twist to this already difficult vault. The 2.5 twist variation is not yet in the Code of Points.

"I actually enjoyed training the Cheng a lot. It came easier to me so I liked training it and had fun doing it. I have been working on getting both my hands on and not rushing the twisting. I've been doing more drills for that."

Even though she is known for her difficult tumbling on floor and her high difficulty vaults, Skinner is working on the other events as well hoping to add another release on bars and optimize her connection bonuses. "It's difficult but I've just got to keep working hard in the gym so I can be ready and prepared."

The U.S. elite season will take some time before it picks up again so Mykayla has gotten back to her routine. "I wake up at 5:00AM and get ready for school. I go to school at Higley High School for half a day and take 4 classes. Then, I head to gym around 1 or 1:30, and train for 7 hours. Then, I go home, sleep, and then repeat the same thing. I have to take a summer school class to get all my credits in."

When Mykayla does have time off, she likes to hang out with her friends and family and enjoys relaxing. However, even when she is relaxing, her goals are on her mind. "I want to make at least a Worlds team and I definitely want to try and make the Olympic team but we'll see how things go."

With a long term goal of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Mykayla has had some time to think about NCAA gymnastics. She plans to attend the University of Utah after trying out for the 2016 Olympic Team. "We used to live in Utah, a while back, for 2 years. It's been a dream of mine to go there ever since we started going to their meets. I love the coaches and the girls there. They're amazing. Just the way they teach technique and the form... It's just been a big goal of mine to go there."

Mykayla training a triple twisting double tuck
Credit: shutupmckaylasvaulting (and gifs of her new vault and more!)

When asked about the current Code of Points, Mykayla points to a rule that has caused a number of gymnasts, coaches, and choreographers (and gym fans) much grief. "I would definitely change where, before each tumbling pass, you have to lift your foot up and can't put it down before you tumble. I'd definitely change that."

I would agree.

Mykayla Skinner is appreciative of all the fans that have encouraged and continue to encourage her. "I like how they're all supportive of me, it's really great. I never thought I'd make it this far so it's nice to have all of their support."

Thank you, Mykayla, for the interview!

You can follow her on twitter, @mykayla2016, or on instagram mykaylaskinner2016 (where she posts some training clips).