MyKayla Skinner: Controversial gymnast makes Team USA for Tokyo Olympics.

MyKayla is now an Olympian, despite considerable odds. The gymnasta, aged 24, married a COVID survivor and University of Utah senior. She was a well-known thrower of hard tricks and harder stares and achieved the almost impossible at the Olympic Trials in St. Louis. Skinner, just two years after retiring from elite gymnastics beat out many talented gymnasts to earn a spot as an American event specialist in Tokyo. Although I don't like to brag, I rarely get the chance: This, people! This was my comeback, and it was.AdvertisementAs with all things in the Skinnerverse however, it comes with an asterisk about the Olympic torch's size (which is still being handed in person). First, the unambiguous good news for Skinner, her passionate, vocal supporters, and the fact that this spot is real, unlike in 2016, where she was famously dissatisfied for being selected as an alternate to Rio's squad. This is also good news for Skinner's passionate, vocal detractors. In 2016, Skinner was not selected for the four-person team. Instead, she won the U.S.'s unclaimed individual spot, over Riley McCusker, a bars specialist, and Kara Eaker, a beam queen. Jade Carey claimed the U.S.'s second individual spot in an international series of meets over two years.AdvertisementAdvertisementAdvertisementIf you haven't spent the last four years trying to understand the International Gymnastics Federation's decision to reduce the team size from five to four and add specialist spots, it is not hard. To make things even more difficult, in 2024, there will be five-person teams.I don't think it is worth trying to get your pandemic-addled brain to do more than this: Four U.S. gymnastsSuni, Jordan Chiles and Grace McCallum will compete for the team medal in Tokyo. Six U.S. gymnasts (the above plus Carey, Skinner and Carey) will compete in total and may contend for individual medals in Tokyo.AdvertisementSkinner plunged headfirst into a cavern of gymnastics depth that was as vast as Moanas Realm of the Monsters (I'm still falling!). And then, she landed.Biles is unsurprisingly the favorite for the All-Around vault and floor golds (and possibly beams, depending on how nervous she is), and Lee is a serious contender to win gold bars. Skinner, however, throws vaults nearly as hard as the GOAT (sometimes when Biles is pacing, the exact same vaults), so she could well be on the medal stand. However, Carey's vaulting skills are almost identical to Skinners. Due to the rule of two gymnasts per country (aka the two -per in gym parlance), only one American other than Biles will be able compete in vault competitions. Drama!AdvertisementThe USA Gymnastics high performance team director Tom Forster and his selection panel made this choice. They chose to field two specialists in the same event and are vying for the only non-Simone spot. This has created a lot of controversy and confusion in the world of gymnastics fandom. It's the Gymternets perfect storm. Whether you love Skinner, or hate her, there is something to tweet passionately about.AdvertisementSkinners fans are puzzled as to why she was not selected for the team competition. Her vault difficulty would have allowed her to contribute slightly more than McCallums. McCallums floor exercise is usually performed more efficiently and scores higher than Skinners. (Though she made a huge mistake on the second night. More duh-rama! McCallum was also fourth in the final Trials standings. Forster explained that McCallum placed Skinner fourth, despite his committee having an extensive protocol for choosing its third and fourth spots on any criteria they choose. This phrase set the Gymternet on fire in the memory of a 2016 Trials where Skinner placed fourth, but was later relegated as an alternate.AdvertisementAdvertisementThis is a great idea! The MykHaters are absolutely schadenfroh that she wasn't selected for the team. Two-per, a term used by gym fans to refer to a country's third-best gymnast, is not being made finals due the two-per rule. Some are hopeful that she will get two-perd out the vault final and bring home hardware-bereft. They are equally furious that she is an Olympian.It is because Skinner's 2016 online behavior, when she retweeted racist images and sentiments about Gabby Douglas (who was seventh at Trials) has remained a source of much rancor. Rancor about Skinner's unsportsmanlike conduct, with emphasis on the woman, is a further factor. Skinner made a classic apology for hurting anyone in 2016 and a more mature one in the Peacock documentary Golden. (Disclosure: I was also interviewed for that series. She is now fully vaccinated. Although I avoid sidesism in most cases, this time both sides have a point. It is fair for those who feel marginalized or hurt by Skinners actions to decline to forgive her. It is also fair for others to find her efforts at repentance sufficient and cheer her on.AdvertisementAdvertisementSkinner's body issues aside, many gymnastics fans don't care about her. Her gymnastics are spectacular but not pretty. Skinner has been known from her senior debut in 2012 as a daredevil, known for throwing the hardest skills she can. Skinner is also known for her chucking technique (gym parlance, for throwing a trick too difficult for you in competition), and execution that is often lacking in, say, Biles amazing air (and body posture) or Lees stunning lines. International judges are known for their strictness about elegance. American-style bravado and grit don't work as well abroad.AdvertisementSkinner's success-yes, even haters, getting a spot on Team USA is unquestionably success!-is still revealing. It reveals important truths about how to stand out in a sea of talent. Skinner's success in today's highly competitive environment is an example of the value of sheer determination and killer instinct. This combination allows her to overcome any difficulty with consistency.Hers is not the only such successful comeback in elite history. Many decorated gymnasts, including Nastia Liukin and Laurie Hernandez, have resigned only to be out of their depth. MyKayla skinner is not one of them. She landed after three years of being in the NCAA, which is less difficult than the NCAA.Skinner's incredible comeback serves as a reminder of the fact that not all athletes are likable. Nietzsche once said that the only thing that matters is the will to be in power. One need only look at the list of younger competitors MyKayla Skinners will be removing to doubt this adage.Listen to Hang Up and Listen to an episode from Slates' sports podcast. You can also subscribe to the podcast on Apple Podcasts or Overcast, Spotify or Stitcher or wherever else you get your podcasts.