With the 2020 Olympics pushed back to 2021, fans of gymnastics have had to wait extra long to see their favorite tumblers back in action. As aficionados of the sport will already know, MyKayla Skinner is part of the 2020 Women’s Olympic Gymnastics Team. While this is her first official appearance at the Olympics, it is not her first chance; back in 2016, Skinner was selected as an alternate for the Olympic team.
Skinner is known for her bold and daring routines. In 2021, Slate called her a "daredevil," and it’s easy to see why. Skinner is also famous for her popular YouTube channel, where she reveals insider details about her training process and her life as an Olympian to her many subscribers.
In 2021, Skinner announced that she would be retiring from the NCAA after the Olympics, writing on Instagram, "As one door closes, another opens, and I’m excited for what’s ahead … [I] want to promise that the world has yet to see my best gymnastics." Curious to find out more about this gymnastics star? Here is the untold truth of MyKayla Skinner.
MyKayla Skinner also has a famous YouTube channel
In addition to her gymnastics, MyKayla Skinner has another claim to fame: her YouTube channel. She started the channel back in 2020; at the time, she wrote, "This channel will document my journey and give you all insight into the life of someone preparing for the Olympics." It’s pretty clear that plenty of people were interested to follow Skinner’s journey through training and trials — as of 2021, the channel has a legion of subscribers and is growing every day. The channel contains everything from tips for gymnasts, vlogs, behind-the-scenes videos, insider clips of training sessions, details about injuries, and Q&As.
It turns out, Skinner is studying broadcast journalism at the University of Utah (via the Olympics), so it’s no real surprise that she’s embraced YouTube and being in front of the camera. In fact, when Skinner is a little older and quits gymnastics for good, we may be seeing even more of her on our screens. As she said in one video, she does plan on continuing the channel after the Olympics are over.
MyKayla Skinner went from elite to collegiate and back to elite gymnastics
"Elite" gymnasts are gymnasts who compete for the national team, whereas "collegiate" gymnasts" compete for their college team. MyKayla Skinner has had experience competing on both types of teams. Skinner was on the elite team in 2016 when she was an alternate for the Rio Olympics. After that, she decided to go to the University of Utah and compete on their team. Then in 2020, Skinner announced plans to defer her final year in order to return to elite gymnastics for the Tokyo Olympics.
It’s quite rare for gymnasts to return to elite after competing at the collegiate level — and for Skinner, it wasn’t an easy transition. She explained to International Gymnast Media, "My biggest challenges returning to elite was trying to get my endurance back on bars and floor … I totally forgot how hard floor was."
In 2020, Skinner went into more detail in a YouTube video. "College and elite gymnastics are kind of like two different worlds … just cause they’re so different from each other," she explained. Elite, she added, is far more about being an individual, whereas collegiate is more about being part of a team. It’s pretty impressive that Skinner has made this transition twice!
MyKayla Skinner adopted a Bengal cat in 2020
In 2020, MyKayla Skinner welcomed a new member of the family — a Bengal kitten! "I have wanted a cat forever," she explained in a YouTube video. Although she and her husband wanted a dog, they had to settle for a cat — after all, Skinner spends most of her days out of the house in the gym. Skinner added that she had recently been "baby hungry," and that the cat would be a good starting point.
Skinner and her husband ended up getting a Bengal kitten called Melo. Apparently, the couple got the cat from a breeder, who said that this type of cat was extremely rare. "[The breeders] said she’s, like, one of the most beautiful blue Bengals they’ve ever had," Skinner gushed while taking her new kitten home.
Later, Skinner and her husband explained what being cat parents is like. It turns out, the Bengal kitten was kind of like a puppy as she liked going on walks, going swimming, and even playing fetch. "It’s nice to have a little buddy around," Skinner continued. "Obviously, I wish I could have a baby, but the kitten will do for now." How cute!
Here’s how MyKayla Skinner deals with mental blocks
The physical aspects of competing are only half the battle — the other half is about mental endurance. For MyKayla Skinner, mental blocks can sometimes be a problem. In a 2020 YouTube video, she sat down with her mental training coach, Clay Frost, to discuss how she works on her mental strength. Frost explained that they had worked on a concept called "the reset button." "We tried the reset button to help me, I guess, kind of, when I’m starting to get overworked on something or thinking of something too much and I have a mental block, kind of, and I need to, like, take a step back," she revealed. When she feels that her mind is getting in the way, Skinner has tools she can use to reset: She closes her eyes, takes a breath, and tells herself, "Be the best you can be." Then, she punches her hand to snap out of her mental block.
In an interview on the podcast "The Routine," Skinner said, "I feel like I get anxiety because I’m not used to it anymore." She added that the mental aspects of training were equally important to the physical aspects, so she goes to therapy three times a week.
MyKayla Skinner contracted a bad case of COVID-19 in 2019
Just as MyKayla Skinner was beginning her training for the 2020 Olympics, she hit a setback: She contracted COVID-19. Skinner got a particularly bad case of the illness, and she was even hospitalized at one point. In an interview with Today, Skinner said that the illness had made it hard to get herself in shape for the Olympics. "I survived, but I wanted to give up so many times," she confessed. "I was like, ‘I don’t even know if I can do this anymore.’"
In 2021, Skinner made a YouTube video about her experience. As she explained, her husband had been on a business trip and he came back with what felt like a cold. Then Skinner started having symptoms, too; she was sick for two weeks, then she started to feel better. A few days later, she got worse again. Skinner then ended up in the hospital and found out she’d contracted pneumonia. As she told Elle, she was terrified that she wouldn’t be ready to compete after being set back by the illness. "I called my sister crying, and told her, ‘I’m so behind,’" she recalled. Luckily, Skinner worked hard and bounced back in time.
MyKayla Skinner was an alternate in Rio, which helped her to grow
A big part of MyKayla Skinner’s story is the fact that she tried and failed to make the Olympic team in 2016. Instead, she was selected as an alternate. While the experience wasn’t easy, it only made her more determined than ever. As Skinner explained to NBC Sports, she wept as soon as it was announced that she hadn’t made the team because it was such a big disappointment.
Not surprisingly, Skinner found it extremely hard to be an alternate. She told Elle, "I had come so close to living out my lifelong dream of winning gold, and in that moment I realized I couldn’t give up just yet." So, Skinner used the disappointing experience to spur her on. As she put it to International Gymnast Media, "It definitely helped me grow in so many ways." Let’s hope her Tokyo Olympics will not be a disappointment!
Here’s what MyKayla Skinner likes to eat
It turns out, Olympic athletes don’t always have crazy restrictive diets. In fact, MyKayla Skinner has a lot of pretty normal food tastes; as she explained to Delish in 2021, she has "never thought about" her calorie intake. Of course, there are a few rules. "I used to eat whatever I wanted," she admitted.
These days, Skinner is gluten-free because of her training. She also tries to eat lots of protein before competing. And, of course, she always tries to keep hydrated. "I drink my 32-ounce water bottle for gym time and sometimes a bit more," she continued.
However, after the Olympics, Skinner will probably go back to her old favorite foods: "Pizza and ice cream or In-N-Out," she added. She also claimed to love fettuccine Alfredo and fries. Wow, we are impressed with this gymnast’s easy-going approach to foods — even the unhealthy ones.
MyKayla Skinner hated elite gymnastics when she started at 13 years old
MyKayla Skinner was just 13 years old when she joined the elite gymnastics program. As she said in a YouTube video, she moved quickly through the stages, going from the elite program to the national team to the "World’s." However, she didn’t always think gymnastics was for her.
In an interview with Elle, Skinner explained that elite gymnastics "was not what [she] expected." There was a huge amount of pressure on the young girls to be perfect. "Which doesn’t make sense," she continued, "Because in gymnastics you need to fail and make mistakes to get better." However, Skinner’s coaches at that time didn’t give them any room for failure. For a while, it made Skinner "hate" the sport.
In a YouTube video, Skinner reacted to videos of herself at 13. "I look so scared," she observed at several points in the video. Clearly, she was terrified of failing! Luckily, Skinner persevered with the sport — and it’s definitely paid off!
MyKayla Skinner is happily married
MyKayla Skinner married Jonas Harmer on November 14, 2019. The pair had started dating at the University of Utah and had been speaking about getting married for a few months before the big day, as Skinner said in a YouTube video. According to his Instagram profile, Harmer helps Skinner with her YouTube channel and also works in sales.
Even though Harmer doesn’t know much about gymnastics, they seem to be the perfect match for each other. In a Q&A video, they both said that their love language was "quality time." In fact, Skinner ever confessed that she wished she could spend all of her time with him! How adorable!
In another video, Skinner said that Harmer had been good for her gymnastics career. "It helps motivate me, it pushes me, it’s nice coming home to, like, your number one supporter," she gushed. When asked if they wanted kids, they said that they both wanted at least three kids — Skinner explained that she wanted them "as soon as possible," while Harmer wanted to wait a little longer. Either way, the pair will definitely be starting a family soon.
MyKayla Skinner is a Mormon
It’s clear that religion is an important part of MyKayla Skinner’s life. She is a member of the Church of the Latter-day Saints, which is often referred to as the Mormon church. In an interview with Church News, the gymnast said, "Having God close by has really helped me to keep going and get answers."
Over the years, Skinner has had to make some difficult choices when it comes to her sporting career, and she has always felt that prayer and faith has helped her choose the right path. Additionally, having a wedding at the Gilbert Arizona Temple was also important to Skinner. She told LDS Living, "I’ve looked up to all of my siblings [and have seen them] get married in the temple and have kids, so that’s just something that I’ve always wanted."
Many young Mormons go on a two-year mission, but for Skinner, it was never really an option because of her gymnastics career. Instead, she feels that gymnastics has been her "mission" and her way to connect with younger people.
MyKayla Skinner was never abused by Larry Nassar thanks to her coach
In 2015, a huge scandal hit the US gymnastics community: Long-time national team doctor Larry Nassar was accused of abusing multiple young gymnasts. He was eventually given what equates to a lifetime sentence. MyKayla Skinner was never a victim of Nassar. According to her coach, Lisa Spini, this was because she always stayed with her in Nassar’s office. "Nothing inappropriate happened. It wasn’t that I suspected anything. I like to make sure my athlete is being taken care of appropriately, so that’s what I did," she told AZ Central.
Even though Skinner never experienced anything inappropriate, she was hugely shaken by the news. "Fortunately nothing has happened to me or anything like that," she said on KUTV. "It’s just been kind of heartbreaking at times." After the scandal, the national team was restructured with new coaches and personnel. At first, Skinner was worried about returning, so she texted her friend Simone Biles, as she told ESPN. Luckily, the new setup ended up being much healthier and Skinner could train better than ever.
MyKayla Skinner has become a controversial gymnast over the years
In 2021, Slate called MyKayla Skinner "gymnastics’ most polarizing figure" and in 2019, they called her "the most hated gymnast in the NCAA." So, why is Skinner so controversial? Well, for one thing, there was a lot of drama surrounding her selection for the Tokyo team. Some were confused as to why she was given the individual spot rather than a team spot, while others were confused as to why she made the team at all.
Another reason why Skinner is controversial is that she retweeted some tweets in 2016 about Gabby Douglas who won the final spot on the Olympic team, beating her out. One retweet even contained racist emojis. Apparently, some gymnastics fans also take issue with her sportsmanship — or, rather, her lack of sportsmanship. Finally, some people believe that Skinner’s lack of elegance won’t be an asset on the Olympic team. Love her or hate her, Skinner certainly evokes a strong reaction from just about everyone.
The 2020 Olympics is MyKayla Skinner’s ‘last chance’ with elite gymnastics
Unfortunately, gymnasts do come with a pretty quick expiry date, and at just 24, MyKayla Skinner is already nearing hers. As she said on the podcast "The Routine," this means that the 2020 Olympics will likely be her last. Even though she still feels like she’s in great shape, Skinner knows that she won’t be able to keep going for much longer at this level. "I feel like this is my one last shot to do, you know, before I get too old," she revealed.
In fact, Skinner has already announced that she plans on quitting collegiate gymnastics after the Olympics — while she will be returning to college to finish her degree, she won’t be competing. "I am not getting any younger and my body definitely needs a rest after this last comeback," she explained. Instead, she’ll be going pro, which means she’ll have more time in between competitions and the ability to pursue different professional avenues. We can’t wait to see what’s next for her!
MyKayla Skinner will be competing in every event in Tokyo
Even though MyKayla Skinner is part of the U.S. Women’s Gymnastics Team, she is entering as an individual rather than a team member (via Time). "She’s going to compete in all the events," her coach explained in a YouTube video. "And she can qualify as an individual on any event for event finals and all around finals."
When she made the team as an individual, Skinner said, "I know I’ve seen a ton of comments of people wishing that I was on the four-man team and you guys have seriously been so sweet, but I love Grace [McCallum] — I’m so happy that she made it." Apparently, after they announced the four women on the U.S. team, Skinner thought she hadn’t made the team at all, so it was a huge surprise to be chosen as an individual competitor. As this was her last chance to make the Olympic team, we can’t blame Skinner for being pretty emotional!