This past weekend, U.S. gymnast MyKayla Skinner‘s Olympic dream appeared to end abruptly. But now, she’s getting a second chance.
On Saturday, July 31, her colleague and Olympic champion Simone Biles withdrew from the vault and uneven bars apparatus finals at the Tokyo Olympics, days after she dropped out of the women’s gymnastics team competition and all-around individual finals, citing mental health issues.
Last weekend, MyKayla competed as an Olympian for the first time, as an individual competitor in the qualifying round, but did not rank high enough to continue to the finals. On Instagram, the 24-year-old Arizona native wrote that her loss meant she was “closing the book on my gymnastics career.” But after Simone’s recent departure, announced by USA Gymnastics, MyKayla, who had the fourth highest score in vault during qualifications, was brought back to take her colleague’s place in the finals. She paid tribute to Simone as she announced her comeback.
“Looks like I get to put a competition Leo on just one more time,” she wrote on Instagram, alongside photos of herself posing in a white patriotic leotard and red jacket. “Can’t wait to compete in vault finals. Doing this for us @simonebiles [red heart emoji] It’s go time baby!”
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At the vault finals, MyKayla will join Team USA member Jade Carey, 21, another first-time Olympian who ranked second in the qualifying round after Simone. With the star gymnast’s departure, Sunisa Lee, 18, will compete in the uneven bars finals as the sole U.S. competitor. Both upcoming events take place Sunday, Aug. 1.
Sunisa, another Olympic newbie, recently won her first gold medal in the individual all-around finals after Simone withdrew from the event.
Simone, 24, has said she has been dealing with the “twisties,” or moments of mid-air disorientation that occasionally plague gymnasts. “For anyone saying I quit, I didn’t quit,” she wrote on her Instagram Story earlier this week. “My mind and body aren’t in sync.”
Her exits from four women’s gymnastics final events are particularly shocking as the star athlete, who won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was expected to compete for all six gold medals in Tokyo to become the most successful woman Olympian of all-time across every sport.
“Today, after further consultation with medical staff, Simone Biles has decided to withdraw from the event finals for vault and the uneven bars,” USA Gymnastics announced in a statement Saturday. “She will continue to be evaluated daily to determine whether to compete in the finals for floor exercise and balance beam.”
The latter two events for which Simone is qualified to compete take place Aug. 2 and Aug. 3, respectively.
“We remain in awe of Simone, who continues to handle this situation with courage and grace,” USA Gymnastics continued, “and all of the athletes who have stepped up during these unexpected circumstances.
Simone has not commented directly about her recent departures but did tweet a couple of inspirational quotes on her Instagram Story Saturday: “I’m allowed to have boundaries and not feel bad” and “We rise by lifting others.”
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