By Evelyn Hendrix
LDS Gymnast Sets Her Sights on 2016 Olympics
Mykayla Skinner is starting her senior year in high school in a big way.
On August 23, the Gilbert teen and member of Lyons Gate Ward, Higley Stake, earned two silver medals at the 2014 P&G Gymnastics Championships in Pittsburgh. She also was named the fifth best all-around gymnast in the U.S. and earned a spot on the Senior USA National Team for the second consecutive year.
The following day, Mykayla boarded a bus for the Senior Pan American Championships in Canada. She hopes to earn a place at the World Championships in China this fall. Each competition is a step on her journey to the 2016 Olympics.
The petite 17-year-old, who trains at Desert Lights Gymnastics in Chandler, has steadily risen to the top.
At the 2012 P&G National Championships, she earned a bronze medal on vault and came in 15th in the all-around, barely missing the chance to compete in the 2012 Olympic trials. A year later, at the 2013 championships, Mykayla took the bronze in both vault and floor exercise and sixth in the all-around.
For the past seven years, she has trained under the watchful eye of National Team coordinator, Martha Karolyi, in Houston.
Mykayla represented the U.S. in Italy at the Trophy of Jesolo competition last March. Her two individual gold medals for vault and floor helped the U.S. win the team gold.
Mykayla also finished first at a recent National Team Training Camp verification, ahead of 2012 Olympic gold medalist Kyla Ross. In August, she earned a silver medal on vault and fifth place in the all-around at the 2014 Secret U.S. Classic in Chicago.
Her favorite element is the double-double-laid-out on the floor exercise. Her routine is one of the most difficult in the world.
“In the past year, I have really grown a lot,” Mykayla says of both her ability and her confidence. She prepares mentally and spiritually for every competition.
“Before I go to bed, I think about my routines, and I pray a lot,” she says.
Her coach, Lisa Spini, says, “Mykala is currently ranked No. 1 in the world on vault and has the highest start value in the world on floor exercise.”
Mykayla spends over 31 hours each week at the gym. She begins school at 6:30 a.m., eats lunch at home and heads to the gym just after noon. She and her coach also spend five days each month training in Houston.
Mykayla’s mom, Kym, has worked part-time at the gym and organizes gymnastic meets to help defer expenses for the costly sport. She and husband, Cris, are their daughter’s biggest cheerleaders.
“This has been a great year for Mykayla,” says her mother. “It’s amazing. She’s a whole different athlete, and her dance has really progressed.”
After high school graduation, Mykayla plans to take a year off to focus on gymnastics and prepare for the 2016 Olympic team trials. In the meantime, Mykayla’s senior year at Higley High School will be a memorable one. Along with juggling homework and finals, Skinner will be vaulting, twisting and flipping her way around the world.